Icebreaker, the New Zealand-based performance brand, is getting serious about the American market.

This story first appeared in the June 17, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The company, which opened a TouchLab store in New York’s SoHo neighborhood in 2010, has hired its first global vice president of retail and will add units in Bethesda, Md., and Chicago this fall. Cathy Quain, who most recently ran marketing, retail and e-commerce at Trina Turk and had also overseen retail for snowboard producer Burton for eight years, will join Icebreaker next month and be based out of the brand’s Portland, Ore., office.

Icebreaker developed the first merino layering systems for the outdoors market and now offers underwear, midlayer garments, outerwear, socks and accessories for men, women and children in more than 3,000 stores in 43 countries. It operates 13 company-owned TouchLab retail stores around the world as well as five stores in France, New Zealand and Colorado that are operated with partners. The company also has offices in Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.

“We’re chipping away,” Jeremy Moon, founder and chief executive officer, told WWD from his headquarters in Wellington, New Zealand. “When we opened the SoHo store, we took the risk of building a flagship in New York so we could learn about retailing. It’s been refreshing to be immersed with our consumers and we’ve reached new customers who weren’t going to our wholesale accounts.”

The 2,225-square-foot Chicago store, which will be located at 44 Walton Street, will be the first Midwestern location for the company and its 10th North American store. It will feature a new design, created by Mapos, that will include a mountain display at the entrance that demonstrates Icebreaker’s layering pieces. The New Zealand sheep used to produce the company’s woolen products were the inspiration for the natural wood walls, fitting rooms, fixtures and shelves. It will also feature a community space where customers can relax and discover more about the brand’s heritage. The store is expected to be opened in October.

A smaller store in Bethesda is slated for a September opening and a unit in Toronto is expected to open in August.

Moon said although the company is adding to its retail roster, wholesale remains the primary focus. Retail and online sales represent 20 percent of Icebreaker’s business.

Moon said with sales now at $180 million, it’s a “pivotal point” for the brand. The addition of Quain and Kristen Celko, formerly of David’s Bridal, Neiman Marcus and Under Armour, who recently joined as vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing, speaks to that point. North America represents one-third of sales, Europe one-third and South America the same.

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