Icebreaker warming the market by opening U.S. office

Icebreaker, a New Zealand-based manufacturer of merino wool apparel, has decided going its own way is the best course of action for the company's future in the United States and has opened its own Santa Barbara, Calif.-based, customer service and distribution center.
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Icebreaker, a New Zealand-based manufacturer of merino wool apparel, has decided going its own way is the best course of action for the company's future in the United States and has opened its own Santa Barbara, Calif.-based, customer service and distribution center. Seth Davis, the U.S. brand coordinator for the company, will continue to head up operations for the company stateside. For warehousing and fulfillment, Icebreaker has turned to Watershed USA, the Washington-based company that also provides warehousing and fulfillment services for PacSafe Designs and Source-Vagabond.

Company CEO Jeremy Moon told SNEWS® that the company currently has 150 high-end specialty retailers across the United States and he has plans to grow that number to around 300.

"We sell in 15 countries and supply over 800 stores, but had been holding off entering the U.S. ourselves because of the country's market importance," Moon said. "We began building our presence here two years ago with the assistance of Don Love and Gramicci, but toward the end of last year we decided mutually that the time was now right for us to part ways to allow us to grow the business on our own."

Moon told us he decided on Santa Barbara because the company needed to be positioned on the West Coast to allow his New Zealand staff to go to and from New Zealand and the United States easily. He also felt the coastal and sunny location near other successful outdoor companies didn't hurt either.

Things are going swimmingly for Icebreaker it appears, with orders as of a month ago triple what they were last year, with no end to the growth curve in sight.

"Sell-through with our current accounts has been phenomenal, requiring us to become more nimble with turnaround and ASAP orders, and that was just one more reason we needed a U.S.-based customer service center so we could provide the high level of service to our retailers we have come to expect as standard for us globally."

Despite the growth and expansion aspirations, Moon is adamant that Icebreaker products will only be sold in specialty stores.

"We want to keep our brand only in specialty stores simply because we want to keep the brand exclusive," Moon told us. "Our distribution philosophy is narrow and deep and our preference is to do more business with fewer stores. By doing that, we make the brand more meaningful to our retailers and, as a result, to our customers."

SNEWS® View: Icebreaker is making all the right moves at the right time it appears. The company produces very high-end product targeted only for the high-end specialty market and it has not suffered from quality control issues that have caused other competitors to stub their toes a bit. Moon is very particular about his company's product quality and takes an amazingly scientific approach, almost like a winemaker, in determining which wool fiber works best for which type of garment and end-use application. That meticulous approach has spelled success for him in Europe. Now that Icebreaker is controlling its own U.S. distribution and business destiny, it is better positioned to present its unique outdoor clothing system made entirely of merino wool to what appears to be a very receptive U.S. retail market.

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