It would be safe to say that most outdoor retailers didn't really consider Woolrich a progressive, fashionable, trendy company. Functional? Well, yes, in a plaid wool or basic fleece kind of way. Consistent? Umm, not really considering that the marketing message changed like the wind in the late '90s through early 2000. Core outdoor? Gee…not exactly, though that is certainly how the company began back in 1830.
Enter Todd Yates in January 2000, now the company's vice president of sales and marketing, and Woolrich has never looked back. The results of his influence and the company directional changes are most evident this year (in 2002) and going into 2003.
Yates has refocused company energy on retail programs, too. In-store signage, posters and fixture programs are super, but don't expect the concept shop theme. Yates tells SNEWS that nothing is forced, only provided. If a retailer wants fixtures, they will be provided. But, most importantly, Yates wants to be sure the Woolrich area in a store is well-presented, well-merchandised and in keeping with the store's design theme.
Woolrich is also in a test mode with a program that sends a store merchandising team into a store to work with staff. Yates' idea is that it will be a different experience for every store with the end goal to find the best vehicle for working with retailers to arrive at the ultimate goal of providing product with value and strong sell-through.
Another thing that has changed dramatically is that the advertising and marketing campaigns actually match the company's new product assortment. Yates tells SNEWS that Woolrich sees the advertising and marketing campaign as a key way to communicate the company message to both the consumer and retailer in ways that continually reinforce what the company product is.
Part of this marketing message is being carried out through Woolrich's partnership with the Discovery Channel to produce a line of outdoor apparel -- Discovery Channel Quest -- which will be worn by the talent and staff and sold in stores.
Essential to the change has been the involvement of the design and development team in the business side of Woolrich. Senior Merchandising Manager Lederle Eberhardt and Product Design Director Paula Kosmatka have taken that involvement to heart, making sure a design budget is kept in clear view from the start of a product so it is competitively produced with value and creativity. Always, Woolrich seeks to offer retailers between a 52-percent and 55-percent margin using MSRP as a guide.
That orientation to value and design is most evident in the company's spring '03 women's and men's line, and the SNEWS team was quite impressed both with the styling and, in many instances, the hand of the garments.
In men's, the styling is relaxed and the colors very traditional, though rich and certainly not old. The Willow Hill shirt (MSRP $43)offers a straight hem with side vents, suitable for wearing with jeans or khakis and is made with Polynosic thread giving the shirt a very soft and silky feel. While not high performance, the shirt is certainly suitable for day hiking or adventure travel with a fabric that dries quickly and washes easily. The Kettle Creek Henley (MSRP $33) provides a more traditional look using 100-percent distressed cotton in a mini-thermal. Though you won't likely wear this for aerobic activities, the shirt has a nice hand and is very suitable for around town and outdoor wear when natural fibers are sought after. The Billings Printed Shirt II (MSRP $38) is just plain fun (pictured) with a cotton/rayon blend that is both comfortable and offers easy care. We also really like the Rifton Short (MSRP $37) with its slightly longer 9-inch inseam and 100-percent cotton canvas material. A gusseted crotch ensures comfort and the lower front security pockets make the short suitable for adventure travel and hiking applications.
Women's styles are more fitted and very feminine while still showing a functional side. Two garments that really caught our eyes in the presentation were the Lodge Grass Jacket (MSRP $86 -- pictured) and the Spruce Run Capri (MSRP $37). The Capri offers a very useable zip-pocket just above the left knee, for stowing an ID, a few dollars and perhaps a key if needed. Plus, it's placed just to the right to not hit at the hip. The cotton/nylon blend Capri is ideal for traveling with a stylish, relaxed fit and it seems as if it will dry relatively quickly. Our favorite though is the Lodge Grass Reversible Jacket. The zip-front, hooded, fleece jersey offers raglan sleeves, zipped side pockets, and is reversible with contrast stitching on one side. It is a perfect garment for around town, at the cabin, traveling or on a short hike.