Vuori is taking the plunge into international markets.
The Encinitas, Calif.-based activewear brand is gearing up to launch in seven countries this week: the U.K., France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia and Canada. The expansion will include direct-to-consumer sales as well as distribution through wholesale channels with some well-known local retailers including Selfridges, Brown Thomas, Cotswold Outdoor, Barry’s Bootcamp and Bever.
The plan also calls for opening its first overseas store in London this summer.
Established in 2015 by chief executive officer Joe Kudla, Vuori has attracted some well-heeled investors including SoftBank Vision Fund 2, which invested $400 million in the brand last fall, leading to its current $4 billion valuation.
“We are proud to announce Vuori’s first expansion outside of the U.S.,” Kudla said. “We are infinitely grateful for our team, which has helped bring this shared vision to life, and are thrilled to bring Vuori’s new perspective on performance apparel to these new markets. 2022 is going to be Vuori’s biggest year yet, and we look forward to sharing much more in the weeks and months ahead.”
Kudla said up until now, Vuori has only had a small wholesale business in Canada, but this marks its first true move outside the U.S.
In selecting these countries, he explained, Vuori sought out regions with thriving e-commerce businesses as well as a consumer demographic that embraces a healthy active lifestyle. He realizes that Vuori does not have “a high degree of brand awareness overseas” and so the company will employ what he described as a “start-up mentality” to establish a foothold in those countries.
“Then we’ll pivot and modify if need be,” he said.
The initial offering will include the full range of Vuori’s men’s and women’s apparel that will be sold through websites that have been established in each country. In addition, Selfridges will offer the men’s line only in all four of its locations; Cotswold Outdoor will sell it in 20 doors and online, and all 11 Barry’s Bootcamp locations in the U.K. will sell the brand. Ireland’s Brown Thomas will sell the line in two locations and online, and the Netherlands-based outdoor retailer Bever will add it to 20 locations and online. Harrods will add the line this fall, Kudla said.
To service these European countries, Vuori will open both a U.K. distribution hub as well as an innovation center in Taiwan as the brand preps for an entry into Asia in the not too distant future. “Phase two will be starting a direct-to-consumer business in China,” Kudla said. “We’ll launch first on Tmall and then open our first store there in 2023.”
Kudla believes that Vuori has “very broad appeal”outside the U.S., and international “can be a very substantial business. But we’re not in a rush. We’re still in a dramatic growth phrase in the U.S. and while we believe our brand will resonate strongly abroad, we’re still looking at it as a start-up and have no overly ambitious projections for year one.”
The international rollout will be spearheaded by Andy Lawrence, who joined Vuori in last June as vice president of international. Lawrence was formerly a consultant/adviser for Gage Street Ventures, where he helped brands including Reformation and Billy Reid expand into new channels. He was also head of international for Reiss, and worked at Ralph Lauren in the Asia Pacific region for five years.
Overall, Kudla said Vuori continues to experience strong growth in its home market. The brand benefited from the rush to athleisure during the start of the pandemic. But as the stores reopened and people have returned to the office, “the product they’re choosing is evolving,” he said. “Since we’ve come out of lockdown, our core product has continued to perform, but we’re also seeing a bigger focus on our travel commuter collection. It’s comfortable but still very office-friendly. We believe work leisure will be the next big trend. We offer trousers and blazers, but they’re comfortable and versatile and don’t identify you as going to the gym.”
Vuori operates 14 stores in the western U.S. and has plans to expand that number to 100 over the next five years, with 15 being added in 2022, Kudla said,
In addition to SoftBank, Vuori is backed by Norwest Venture Partners.