Ex Officio's first foray into retail exceeding expectations

In early May, Seattle-based Ex Officio opened the company's first retail store, located in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Central Terminal.
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In early May, Seattle-based Ex Officio opened the company's first retail store, located in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Central Terminal.

Company President Rick Hemmerling told SNEWS® that while Ex Officio was a bit nervous about the idea of opening a retail shop at first, the venture has been everything the company and parent company K2 hoped it might be and more. Sales per square foot are astounding, Hemmerling stated.

"Having a 1,680-square-foot store in such a prime location is a very big brand statement for us -- it is very, very visual," said Hemmerling. "Every customer who visits that store is our target customer -- a traveler."

The location was originally slated to become an Eddie Bauer store, but when that company had to back away from the table, a Seattle airport project manager who was, coincidently a customer of Ex Officio's, contacted Hemmerling to gauge interest.

Hemmerling told us that an airport location, while a surprise in terms of timing, was something the company had discussed as a long-term goal in the past.

"Our jaws just about hit the ground when they contacted us -- the spot was considered the No. 1 retail location in the airport. What makes this so perfect to us is you can't just drive up and go shopping," said Hemmerling. "You have to have a ticket and pass through the security gates. So, we are able to create a strong brand statement in a way that still protects our wholesale channel."

And by all accounts, the wholesale channel is quite pleased with the effort, which has led to a surprise benefit for Ex Officio.

"We have fielded numerous calls from retailers who have passed through the terminal and visited our store asking about display features, racks, fixtures and more," said Hemmerling. "We are able to showcase our entire product line in the way it is intended to be showcased, and as a result, a number of our dealers are already considering merchandising changes in their own stores."

In addition to Ex Officio goods, Marmot and Dana Design are reaping some of the exposure rewards as sister companies.

"We are selling Marmot packs exceptionally well too," Hemmerling added.

As for future plans for expansion of stores into other international airport locations around the country, Hemmerling told us the company is always ready to listen if the right offer comes along.

SNEWS® View: One of our editors had the opportunity to visit the store on a recent trip and she told us the store was wonderfully merchandised and just pulled her in, even though she already knew the brand well. And that is the beauty of this for Ex Officio. Not only do they get to preen the best of their brand image to the public -- some of whom might not have been as aware of the brand before -- but they also get to showcase how to best merchandise the line, and that is worth almost as much if it gets retailers around the country thinking about how to better tell the Ex O story to their customers. Our editor on the scene did tell us the replica DeHavilland Beaver was not yet hanging in the store as of mid-June, something that Hemmerling confirmed, telling us that the company was having to put on several more coats of fire-retardant paint before the Ex O icon makes its official appearance.  

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