Appeared In
Special Issue
Men'sWeek issue 02/03/2011

Original Penguin is planning an aggressive retail rollout both domestically and internationally.

This story first appeared in the February 3, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The brand, which was founded in 1955 and is now owned by Perry Ellis International Inc., is expecting to add around five stores in key U.S. cities, as well as seven to 10 overseas units, within the next year, according to Ann Payne, senior vice president of merchandising and design.

“We’re looking to become stronger in our retail business,” she said. Original Penguin currently operates seven full-price stores and three outlets around the country and 27 stores globally, in South America, South Africa, the Philippines and the U.K. “We’re also looking at growing in Canada and Europe,” she added.

Payne said that although no leases have been signed, the company is looking at Boston and New York City, where it currently operates two units, along with San Francisco. Internationally, she said the brand hopes to expand its presence in the U.K., where it currently operates a store in London’s Covent Garden, as well as in other cities “on the Continent.” Another major push will be in Argentina and Brazil, where Original Penguin hopes to expand its presence, and in Turkey. Payne said the brand is opening a pop-up store in Istanbul later this month and will replace it with a full-price store there this summer.

Right now, Original Penguin’s sales are about evenly split between retail and wholesale, and Payne said the wholesale business is performing quite strongly.

For spring, the brand formed a collaboration with designer Richard Chai, who created a premium collection for the company. Payne said the second incarnation of that collaboration will be shown at New York Fashion Week later this month. “It was a teaser collection for spring,” she said, “but now it’s a full-blown capsule collection in every category. We previewed it at Bread & Butter [in Berlin in January], and the response was great. We’re now showing it to different retailers in the U.S. and we think we will continue to do it for the next couple of seasons.”

For fall, the brand is launching denim, which will be shown at the upcoming Project show in Las Vegas. Four fits will be available and the retail price will be $98. “This is new for us,” she said. “We’re known for our tops business.”

Other new moves for the brand include the debut of a fragrance at the end of March and the addition of licensed products in categories including home goods and sunglasses, Payne said. The women’s component of the collection is also being expanded, and Original Penguin is exploring adding a children’s collection in the States, a category that it offers in Europe.

Payne said the current management team, which has been in place for around two years, has worked to bring back the heritage of the label. “We’ve stopped chasing trend and gone back to the vintage roots of what we are.”

The label, which uses Pete the Penguin as its logo, had its beginnings in the Munsingwear underwear factory in Minneapolis and started out as a golf brand, worn by athletes such as Arnold Palmer and celebrities including Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. After a hiatus, the brand was relaunched by PEI in 2003.

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