Woolrich is preparing for a major retail rollout. The venerable Pennsylvania-based company, which celebrated its 185th anniversary this year, will open 80 stores around the world over the next five years.
The aggressive expansion is being spearheaded by WP Lavori in Corso, the brand’s long-time partner.
In June 2012, the Woolrich, Pa.-based Woolrich and the Bologna, Italy-based WP Lavori expanded their 35-year licensing deal. Under the terms of the deal, WP Lavori manages the European, Japanese and Korean markets, while Woolrich oversees operations in North America and handles logistics and distribution.
Andrea Cane, creative director of WP Lavori, said the companies are investing $50 million into the rollout.
The focus on retail also indicates a “rebalancing” of the company’s wholesale distribution model. Right now, Woolrich, which has annual volume of $250 million globally, is 88 percent wholesale, 2 percent retail and 10 percent online in Europe, and 70 percent wholesale, 40 percent online and less than 5 percent retail in the U.S.
By 2020, however, the forecast is to be 68 percent wholesale, 24 percent retail and 8 percent online globally.
Right now, Woolrich has two stores in the U.S. — one in SoHo and another on Newbury Street in Boston that opened two weeks ago. There are also 14 stores in Europe and one in Asia.
“We’ve opened 16 stores over the past 10 years but we’re ready to take it to the next level,” said Nick Brayton, president of Woolrich and a seventh generation of the founding family. “We’ve seen significant brand equity, successful turnover and visibility.”
Those stores, and the ones in the pipeline, carry the company’s Woolrich John Rich & Bros. label, an elevated collection designed by WP Lavori.
Woolrich also produces a Woolrich White line of outerwear and sportswear based on the company’s archives as well as an Outdoor label. Brayton said right now, the majority of the business in the U.S. comes from the company’s Outdoor label and the plan calls for “consolidating Woolrich White into Outdoor in the next two seasons.”
In Europe, the brand also offers Penn-Rich, a line targeted to a “sporty customer,” Cane said. “It’s not outdoor, but casual.” But like Woolrich White, this label too may “disappear,” Cane said, to focus on the John Rich & Bros. collection. “It’s something we’re discussing internally,” he said.
Woolrich also produces fabric at its historic woolen mill in Pennsylvania, primarily for blankets.
With John Rich & Bros. as the focus, Cane said the companies plan to add 54 stores in Europe, 11 in the U.S. and Canada and five in Asia between now and 2020. In 2016, units will open in Milan, Rome, Dusseldorf, Antwerp, Rotterdam, Madrid and Oslo as well as Chicago. Stores in Seoul and in Tokyo’s Ginza are also in the cards.
From 2017 to 2020, key cities include Paris, Florence, Frankfurt, a second store in London, Zurich, Wien, Moscow and Geneva. In the States, San Francisco, Seattle and Aspen will get stores as well as uptown Manhattan.
Brayton said the wish list also includes Toronto and Vancouver or Ontario in Canada along with Philadelphia and Denver.
“It’s a very ambitious plan,” Cane admitted.
“But we want to continue to grow the brand globally and we see the real growth in retail,” Brayton said.
WP Lavori, which also owns the Baracuta and B.D. Baggies labels and has Italian distributorship deals with Barbour and others, recently opened its first U.S. store in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Cane said the store is performing well but no others are planned.
“We are very concentrated on investing in Woolrich,” he said.