TORONTO — As Canadian technical outerwear specialist Arc’teryx eyes aggressive global expansion — particularly in China and the U.S. — the company has developed a virtual reality component for its stores to make consumers’ time with the brand feel more experiential and less transactional.
Working in partnership with Destination B.C., Arc’teryx launched Hut Magic, a virtual reality ski hut concept, online and in its 17 stores across North America for the holiday season.
Using Google Jump technology, the immersive experience shot by Whistler, B.C.’s Switchback Entertainment takes viewers to the remote Coast Mountains near Smithers, B.C., where they are transported onto towering icy glaciers; vast, snow-powdered slopes and a cozy, fire-lit lodge to soak up après ski time with friends.
“Virtual reality isn’t new. But this is unlike the usual virtual reality wild ride. It feels much more organic,” said Megan Cheesbrough, Arc’teryx’s director of global retail and in-store excellence.
Filming for the experimental project took place in February.
Though Arc’teryx was initially unsure of what this journey into British Columbia’s backcountry would yield, when the film came back “it became obvious very quickly that we knew we were onto something,” Cheesbrough told WWD. “What’s so wonderful about Hut Magic is that you are actually a character in the story. You’re not just watching from the sidelines.”
Told through different characters, Hut Magic gives viewers the sense that they are actually having a conversation with the cook in the ski lodge, the assistant in the gear room, guides, skiers on the slopes and others peppered throughout the story.
Hut Magic also showcases a host of things typically associated with the holiday season, such as wonderful food, skiing and the company of friends and family.
“This project has been a huge, cross-functional learning experience for Arc’teryx. But it’s given us an innovative way to bring together the essence of the holidays through storytelling. That’s why we decided to lead into the holiday season with this new offering for our company,” said Cheesbrough.
Feedback from consumers has been positive.
“Some people get very animated going through this virtual reality process. They’ve actually broken out into a sweat while they’re in the story,” said Cheesbrough.
Buoyed by the response, Arc’teryx will extend Hut Magic to run throughout January’s ski season.
Arc’teryx is also primed to do more such projects next year and beyond. That decision comes as the company known for pioneering the watertight zipper in 1997 embarks on a plan to expand its global footprint.
In 2005, Arc’teryx was purchased by Finland’s Amer Sports. It now distributes products ranging in price from $15 to $1,000 through more than 3,000 retail locations worldwide. That includes 32 branded stores in countries including the U.S., China, Japan, Switzerland, France, the U.K. and Canada.
In 2017, Arc’teryx launched two stores in California, two in China, two in Canada and one location in Japan. According to Cheesbrough, “We’ll be opening six to ten stores over the next few years.”
That includes the 2018 unveiling of three to four more locations in China, two additional stores in Japan and two more in Canada. That pace will continue into 2019 as Arc’teryx establishes more outposts in China and the U.S.
Also well-known for its hardshells and down insulation, Arc’teryx will further develop its footwear line for hikers, bikers and mountain climbers in 2018. Launched in 2015, the collection has technical innovations, including fully laminated seamless one-piece uppers; protective, three-dimensional custom molded rubber toes and heels, and hydrophobic materials for fast drying.
Arc’teryx will also launch new apparel silhouettes for 2018.