BROOKLYN — It’s been quite a learning curve for Mike Beagley since his brand decided to make the arduous journey from New Zealand to America six years ago.
But the chief executive officer of Rodd & Gunn has embraced that education and now the U.S. market represents close to one-fifth of the $100 million annual volume of the privately held men’s wear label.
“It’s been an amazing journey,” Beagley said. “And we’ve learned as much about what not to do as what to do. But we’ve really got momentum now.”
Beagley was in the States on Wednesday for the official celebration of the brand’s first East Coast store on Front Street in the red-hot DUMBO neighborhood in Brooklyn. The 3,200-square-foot store is only Rodd & Gunn’s second in the U.S., following a flagship that opened in Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., in October. There is also a large shop-in-shop at Wingtip in San Francisco.
The brand operates 95 stores in its home market of New Zealand and Australia.
When Rodd & Gunn first decided to test the waters in the U.S., it entered as a wholesaler as it worked through the logistics of developing product for a market with different seasonality while figuring out U.S. Customs, labeling, shipping and other issues.
“It’s been a huge investment,” he admitted. “The U.S. is a long way away from New Zealand. But this year, it will be nearly 20 percent of our business, and it really came on in the last two years.”
After a slow and deliberate start, Rodd & Gunn now counts Nordstrom as its largest wholesale customer with a presence in 44 doors in the U.S. and Canada. It also sells to the Nordstrom-owned Trunk Club, which he said was “an early adopter.”
Rodd & Gunn plans to significantly expand its retail presence in America, with stores planned this year in Century City and La Jolla in California as well as Dallas. The plan is to add eight to 10 additional U.S. stores by the end of 2018.
He said the plan for the U.S. is to continue to juggle both wholesale and retail, as well as e-commerce. “We don’t see our stores dominating.”
Beagley said the casually skewed brand, which offers outdoor-inspired sportswear inspired by nature, has had the most success so far with its brightly colored and patterned woven shirts and lightweight outerwear in the U.S. market.
“We realized that if you move a fraction of an inch off of who you are, you will fail miserably,” he said. “The U.S. has taught us discipline.”
Because New Zealand is in a different hemisphere with seasons that are reversed from those in the U.S., he said it took about two years for Rodd & Gunn to work through that challenge, but Beagley said the company is now using that to its advantage.
“Usually the top sellers in Australia and New Zealand are the same as in the U.S.,” he said, and the brand can tell its retail partners and its own staff here which items are likely to be most popular. “We know what’s actually selling,” he said.
Because of Rodd & Gunn’s focus on the American market, Beagley said he’s visiting here around nine to 10 times this year to show the company’s commitment to making a mark in the U.S. “It’s helped to show everyone how serious we are,” he said. “But I’m afraid it’s been at the expense of our business in Australia and New Zealand. There are stores we’ve opened there that I haven’t even seen yet.”
Beyond the U.S., Beagley also has his sights on the U.K. “We’re going to start the process next year,” he said.
He said he believes the brand’s aesthetic will appeal to the shopper there, and there’s no language barrier.
Beagley hosted a dinner at the DUMBO store for press and influencers Wednesday night, serving traditional New Zealand fare and working to get the message out.
He said the store, which had a soft opening in February, has been successful so far. “It’s been good, we’re pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We’re getting a mix of 50-50 residents and tourists of all nationalities. We’re hitting our numbers.”
Although opening a store in New York wasn’t part of the initial plan, Beagley said he changed his mind when he got a look at the site in Brooklyn.
And now, he’s going to have to add more. “We’re going to have clusters in Northern California, Southern California, Dallas and now the Northeast,” he said. “I think we’ve proven that we have a legitimate right to be here.”