Original Penguin is jumping back into the Brazilian market.
Original Penguin by Munsingwear, a division of Perry Ellis International, has licensed the Aste Group to relaunch the brand in the Latin American country, starting with the spring 2022 season.
Aste will handle the brand’s distribution and licensing in Brazil, focusing on lifestyle products as well as performance categories including golf, tennis and pickleball.
Oscar Feldenkreis, president and chief executive officer of PEI, said the brand had previously worked with another licensee in Brazil, but “they didn’t do a proper job.” However, he’s confident that the relationship with Aste will allow the brand to reach its “tremendous growth potential” in that region. The multiyear relationship with Aste includes brick-and-mortar stores, wholesale and e-commerce.
Feldenkreis said he expects that within the next five years, Aste will open more than two dozen stores in Brazil. “If we have 22 stores in Argentina, we can have 25 for sure in Brazil,” he said.
He said a primary reason he signed Aste is that there is “strong prohibition to importing product into Brazil, so we needed to partner with someone who could manufacture there,” he said.
Aste’s history dates back more than 50 years and it distributes Coach, Diesel, JanSport, Kipling, New Balance, Ugg and other brands in Brazil. It also operates Allbags, a multibrand retail store created by its founder Augusto Emani in 2007.
In addition to Original Penguin, PEI sells its Nike swimwear licensed product in Brazil, Feldenkreis said.
The Original Penguin product sold in Brazil will be the same as that offered in the U.S., but if the licensee has something in particular that it requires, the two will work together to make it happen, he said.
Original Penguin’s move into Brazil is part of a strategic plan recently developed by PEI for the Latin American market. Overall, Feldenkreis said PEI operates 53 stores in the region in countries including Panama, Guatemala, Colombia and others. And while business did drop off during the height of the pandemic, he said it is recovering “very quickly.” Chile in particular has been a standout, he said.
Overall, Feldenkreis said PEI’s business is also rebounding. “COVID-19 was extremely challenging for us, like it was for everyone, but the first half has been pretty good and we continue to see upside.”
Perry Ellis, the company’s flagship brand, has benefited from the dress-up trend as men updated their wardrobes for weddings and other events that had been postponed from last year, and sales of Original Penguin have also been good. “We’re seeing strong momentum in Perry,” Feldenkreis said. “And Penguin is always casual, so we’ve also done well there.”
He said the golf business — Callaway, PGA Tour and Original Penguin — has also been strong as a result of so many people playing or taking up the game during the pandemic. And Penguin’s launch of tennis and entry into the red-hot pickleball market has also been a home run. In May, Penguin signed a multiyear partnership with USA Pickleball to serve as its official apparel partner. “That’s a great opportunity,” he said.
Feldenkreis concluded: “We’re surviving and we’re looking forward to a bright future in the U.S. as well as in LATAM.”
In 2018, Oscar Feldenkreis’ father George took spearheaded the move to take the company private for $437 million. George Feldenkreis, the founder and former chairman, had resigned from the firm shortly after its 50th anniversary in 2017 following a dispute with an activist investor but immediately started making moves to buy the business and remove it from the scrutiny of the public markets. Today, PEI operates a portfolio of owned and licensed brands that include Laundry by Shelli Segal, Rafaella, John Henry, Cubavera, Savane, Natural Issue and Manhattan.