PARIS — Fusalp has landed in the U.S. with the opening of stores in New York and Aspen, Colorado.
Both boutiques are the first flagship stores in the U.S. for the French luxury skiwear brand, where it is available online and through retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Ssense.
“It’s the right time to be investing at last in the U.S. market,” said chief executive officer Alexandre Fauvet. Interest from American customers has been growing since the brand was brought from dormancy in 2014, both in its physical stores in France but also online, where they have become the second-largest cohort behind French consumers with a 20 percent share of online transactions.
While e-commerce represents 15 percent of the overall business, with 10 percent coming from its own website and the additional 5 percent contributed by pure players such as Net-a-porter, the executive said the moment was ripe to offer a brick-and-mortar experience to Fusalp’s American consumers, owing to the technical nature of the products.
“In fact, we’d prefer customers to come into the stores, discover products and then possibly buy online,” he added.
These U.S. consumers will now have their pick between the 2,600-square-foot boutique located at 625 Madison Avenue in New York, featuring the brand’s latest retail concept, or the 1,800-square-foot Aspen boutique, which opened on Monday on East Hopkins Avenue for the winter season before moving to a 1,900-square-foot permanent location on East Hyman Avenue in 2023.
Fauvet said the company aims to make the U.S. its second largest market globally in three years’ time, taking a 25 percent share of global sales, which are projected at some $100 million at that date.
Fusalp sells through 300 wholesale accounts, including 15 in the U.S., with 80 percent of its business based in France, and saw sales increase 88 percent for the 2021 fiscal year, closing at 40 million euros.
Though the executive deemed it a “tough, competitive market,” North America may even take first place within the next decade, he continued, revealing a plan for eight stores across the U.S. and Canada.
The recruitment of a local team, including Todd Bernstein, who heads Fusalp North America and has deep expertise in the wholesale business, also fit in with Fauvet’s intention to see the brand’s 80-20 split between retail and wholesale settle to 50-50 in North America. Among other medium-term plans is the opening of U.S.-based facilities within the next few next years.
For now, Fauvet set an ambitious goal for the 2022-23 winter season, which ends in April, of $4 million in sales between both U.S. stores. With the luxury shopping scene heating up in Aspen ahead of the holiday season, Fusalp will be rubbing shoulders with the likes of Balmain, Prada and Max Mara, to name a few of the labels that are throwing down their ski mitts in town.
For fiscal year 2022, which ends in May and shows signs of 25 to 30 percent growth globally, Fauvet expects that the U.S. market will represent “close to 10 percent of [Fusalp’s] total business.”
A goal that could be within reach, given the U.S. market’s appetite for more — both in quantity and price.
Not only are they interested in higher-end pieces, Fauvet said, but the average basket size for U.S.-based orders is $3,000, up from a French average of 600 euros per transaction. Prices still start around $500 but now go up to $2,500, rather than the mid-$1,000 range.
“It’s a request from our U.S. customers to go higher, but it’s not a pricing policy that we are going to apply,” he added, describing this as an opportunity to push the envelope in terms of materials and innovation, or through collaborations.
The brand recently released a 14-piece capsule with Pucci spanning skiwear and leisurewear, hot on the heels of its hookup with Swiss watchmaker Zenith. Another designer collaboration will be revealed in early 2023.
To match the ongoing upscaling of the brand, the retail spaces are likewise being rethought to embody the idea that “it’s not about quality of product, it’s also about quality of service,” as Fauvet put it.
As Fusalp celebrates its 70th anniversary, it was important to highlight the “connection between past, present and future” but without nostalgia, explained Fauvet.
Paris-based architectural practice Dillon Garris, in charge of the brand’s architectural concepts, apply wood, leather and visual reminders of Fusalp’s Alpine heritage but in short order, fitting rooms will also make use of AR technologies to help project consumers in environments that would match their skiwear choices.
Another sign of Fusalp’s growth is the larger footprint of the freshly opened U.S. stores.
“I was quite frustrated because we were opening small stores [although] it made sense given the size of Fusalp at the time,” said Fauvet, who said the brand would “relocate and enlarge” its stores, currently 1,500 square feet on average, now that it had the means to invest in bigger ones.
The additional space will be needed to enhance the customer experience, in light of the brand’s growing offering that spans men’s and women’s clothing, expanded accessories and the newly introduced footwear, starting this winter.
While a full-bodied spring collection will now be offered, Fauvet repeated that versatility is a sound choice for sustainability and business, especially as the company’s 52 doors and e-commerce remain open all year long.
But rather than branch out into new activities, Fauvet said the company would mine its technical expertise to offer items that can be worn on and off-piste.
“What we want to express should not be totally out of the blue that doesn’t look consistent with what we’re building,” insisted Fauvet, noting that having an urban jacket as the current Fusalp bestseller confirmed that the company is on the right track.