Merchandising Tour: The power of purpose at Woolrich

Integrity is a powerful buzzword among Outdoor Retailer exhibitors, and what better way to tell an authentic story than by harkening back to a company’s roots. SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright takes a closer look at why Woolrich won the overall Best of Booth award at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012.

Integrity is a powerful buzzword among Outdoor Retailer exhibitors, and what better way to tell an authentic story than by harkening back to a company’s roots. Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 Best of Booth winner Woolrich was singled out for exactly that — yet representatives from the 182-year-old company stress that their heritage-inspired merchandising simply is designed the same way as their products: with purpose.

“We’ve always been about purposefulness, for almost two centuries, now,” said Brent Hollowell, Woolrich’s vice president of marketing.

Woolrich’s foundations in the outdoor business date to 1830, and its merchandising goal is to convey brand personality rather than piggyback on a current trend. In fact, given its longevity in the industry, one could argue that Woolrich set the trend for heritage displays. The evolution of the 503 field jacket is a good illustration of how purpose follows from customer demand (see photo, right). The coat was designed back in the day with a game pocket so if a logger managed to capture dinner while on the river, he could store it until he headed back home. The pocket later was lined in rubber so blood from the game wouldn’t leak out.

When Woolrich utilizes museum-quality pieces as merchandising props, the company is sharing the real McCoy — from the loom shuttles to sheep shears to old lunch boxes. And if the merchandising aims to help retailers and consumers connect with product on an emotional level, we’d have to say it succeeded judging by the level of interest the booth generated at ORWM. The “heart” of the divided 40-by-70-foot booth was merchandised with a trip down Woolrich’s memory lane, while exterior reflected the contemporary outdoor adventurer.


But the booth was not designed to capture a Best of Booth award. Woolrich wanted the space to serve as inspiration for retailers, a way to suggest how they might share their own store’s heritage to connect with customers.

“Woolrich customers can participate in the outdoors and look good while doing so, and we wanted to suggest to retailers a versatile merchandising message they could utilize,” Creative Director Leah Dole said.

Retailers know their customer base best, and according to Hollowell some of the coolest visual merchandising he’s ever seen comes from retailers who take a strong hand in understanding how the Woolrich brand fits into their customers’ lives. Retailers have an opportunity to demonstrate their own stellar merchandising by entering Woolrich’s 2012 retail display contest. Winners will be receiving a Woolrich Adventure trip to Alaska.

Authenticity, clarity of purpose and a love for the outdoors are what Woolrich is all about in its merchandising message. By sticking to the company’s strengths, its merchandising tells a unique story — we can’t wait to see what’s next!


New president Nick Brayton may have given us a hint when he told SNEWS, “one of our initiatives will be to move toward a leadership position in performance wool,” saying he aims to balance innovation and performance with the heritage image going forward.

SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright

is the founder of Merchandising Matters,

which provides
visual merchandising and

marketing support to the outdoor retail industry.

Reach her via email at

with questions, ideas and suggestions.



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