Bonobos’ sister brand Ayr will undergo its first significant wholesale expansion, entering Nordstrom this week.
The vertical e-commerce company — an acronym for All Year Round — starting selling its denim, cotton pants, woven tops, silk tops and outerwear on nordstrom.com earlier this year, but this is the first time Ayr will be sold in a brick-and-mortar environment, save for the Guideshop in its New York City headquarters. The line is available in three Nordstrom doors to start — in Bellevue, Wash.; Dallas, and Los Angeles — but if the brand follows in the footsteps of its men’s parent company, consumers can expect to see the buy-now-wear-now basics in many more Nordstrom locations in the near future.
“We sold more jeans than we had customers,” Maggie Winter, cofounder and brand director of Ayr, said of the brand’s first year in business, which saw $2 million in gross sales. “This was a good and a bad problem. [It meant] we needed more customers. There’s huge outside potential of building an audience through Nordstrom.”
And while denim still is the largest category for Ayr, The Robe — an unconstructed, Italian wool coat — is on its fourth reorder. It made its debut with the brand’s first full collection and was the most expensive piece at $485. This was an eye-opener to Winter and Bonobos founder and chief executive officer Andy Dunn, who told WWD earlier this year that he expects Ayr to hit $4 million in sales in 2015.
Initially, Dunn thought that Ayr should be focused on establishing itself as a denim brand, but Winter disagreed. She didn’t want Ayr to be pigeonholed into a single category and supported the growth of an expanding outerwear selection — a sector of the business the two see as a “top opportunity.”
Winter saw similar purchasing patterns with outerwear when the brand began selling on Shopbop.com in September, Ayr’s foray into wholesale. The fashion pieces did better than the essentials, the opposite of when consumers buy directly from Ayr’s Guideshop, Winter said, noting that there was no price resistance for outerwear pieces that neared the $550 mark.
Bonobos, which has been around for eight years, didn’t have a physical wholesale presence until five years into the business, when Nordstrom picked up the line in 20 of its doors (the retailer is also an investor in the men’s wear company). Now, Bonobos is sold in all 117 Nordstrom stores and the retailer picked up suiting as a category during the holiday season. Additionally, Nordstrom started carrying Bonobos in its Canadian outpost in Calgary late last year (the brand’s first international wholesale account), and will roll out similar offerings in its Ottawa door this month and Vancouver in the fall.
But beyond wholesale growth, Ayr wants to find ways to physically connect with its consumer base.
On Feb. 4, the brand began to pilot a home try-on program with one item, its best-selling skinny jeans in the ultradark blue “Jac’s Jean” wash. Customers who opt in are sent up to three sizes of the jeans and temporarily charged $1 per pair. They’ll receive them within two days and have one week to decide what fits and what they’re sending back.
In the month since, the company has seen a 10 percent lift in its denim business — the core of its sales. And of the people who have bought from the home try-on system, 75 percent were new customers, according to Winter, who said the brand spread the word via e-mail marketing.
“This isn’t a $15 dollar product; you want to know exactly how it’s going to work on you. [We need to] get past hurdles on price and fit,” Winter said, adding that they’ve shipped about 500 pairs of try-on jeans so far.