NEW YORK — Joe Kudla has wanted to open a store in New York for years – and that dream has finally come true.
The founder and CEO of Vuori, a Southern California-based active and lifestyle brand, opened its largest detail store at 106 Spring Street – a 5,000 square foot East Coast flagship on the corner of Mercer Street.
No more WWD
This is the brand’s 25th store and one of many it will open before the end of the year. A unit on Rush Street in Chicago, Illinois is next, followed by NorthPark in Dallas, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada and Scottsdale, Arizona. The plan, Kudla said, is to open another 70 stores over the next five years, bringing the brand’s total to around 100.
The detail The rollout is just the latest illustration of Vuori’s meteoric growth. Kudla, an active yogi and surfer, started the brand in 2015 to fill a void he saw in the men’s activewear market for workout shorts that could take a guy from the gym to lunch. He raised $300,000 from friends and family and created moisture-wicking, quick-drying shorts with a quintessentially Californian aesthetic. Since then, the brand has expanded into a wide range of other categories, including womenswear, and thanks to some deep-pocketed investors – including SoftBank Vision 2 and Norwest Venture Partners – it now has a valuation of 4. billions of dollars.
“It’s never the bottom line that drives this business,” Kudla said while touring the SoHo store for the first time this week. “We want to inspire a happy and healthy outlook on life and bring that message to new markets.”
Reviewing the store which had a soft opening over the weekend, Kudla said, “We are big believers in brick and mortar. In the first three days this store was open, we saw an incredible response. The community is delighted that we are here. All of our stores are integrated into the communities in which they operate. And we believe there’s no better way to build a brand.
This strategy that the company has honed in other locations where it hosts events, such as local art exhibits and yoga classes, will also be executed in New York. To introduce the store to the city, Vuori hosted SoulCycle Takeovers this week and there will be similar activations in the future. During the pandemic, the brand created the ACTV Club, a free workout program on its Instagram page, to motivate customers to keep moving. Now, these workouts are coming to life in West Coast stores and may soon be added to the New York flagship.
But for now, the focus is on establishing the store itself.
The SoHo unit, which is located in the neighborhood’s historic cast iron district, retains some of the original architecture, such as floor-to-ceiling columns, but it also strives to bring a taste from his hometown of Encinitas, California to New York. City with custom-designed light fixtures handcrafted from natural materials, a skylight ceiling installation that brings a sense of light to the space, a striking 40-foot hallway of lighted arches leading to the cabin fitting and a Rise and Shine Sun behind the register register.
The store also features a custom art installation of backlit mountains – Vuori is a Finnish word meaning mountain – museum tables to display branded books and marketing materials, and walls with sayings such as: “We take inspiration from an active California Coast lifestyle,” and run. Surf. Hike. Form. Coldness.”
“Our goal is to bring the natural environment of Southern California to New York City,” Kudla said. “We had been watching New York for over two years – before the pandemic – but we wanted to wait until the brand had the right level of awareness on the East Coast. Today, New York is our second largest online market behind LA. We have clients here, so it was just a matter of finding the right location.
Rent isn’t cheap and negotiating with the landlord took some time, but Kudla believes New York is “the pinnacle of retail in the world”, so securing such an important location in the working-class neighborhood was key to its decision to open here. “SoHo has long been one of New York’s most popular malls because it’s the perfect blend of a place where people live and work, but also where they come to shop, discover new brands and shop. have fun. We look forward to serving new and existing customers and bringing locals together in ways that celebrate and inspire healthy, happy lives. »
The store has the widest assortment of any unit, Kudla said, with fitness-related products on one side and lifestyle offerings on the other. There are product captions in front of some of the bestsellers, like the Kore shorts, and the men’s and women’s collections are marketed together rather than separately. And some of the brand’s latest additions, such as outerwear and accessories, are given priority in the store as well. Women, which the company launched in 2018, now make up 50% of sales, Kudla said.
“Our company was founded on fitness and brings a fresh perspective to performance apparel,” he said. And while the Kore shorts, with their athletic cut that falls just above the knee and includes a breathable boxer liner, remain the top seller, loungewear and performance outerwear are also doing well in New York. “And the customer doesn’t hesitate on the price,” he said. Other brand bestsellers include the men’s commuter collection, which features traditionally silhouetted trousers created from performance fabrics that can be worn for work or travel.
And even though the store has only been open for a few days — the grand opening event will be on Thursday evening — it has already become Vuori’s number one location, Kudla said. “We still have a lot to learn, but we are optimistic.”
Despite the focus on physical retail, Vuori still has a robust wholesale business that accounts for around 28% of total sales, Kudla said. But it’s the online store that still represents the lion’s share of the business. “Our retail business is still relatively small,” he said. “The majority of our sales are still through our website.”
But that can change. At the end of September, Vuori opened its first London store in Covent Gardens to launch its business in Europe. The store is small, around 1,000 square feet, but has served as an introduction to the community and is doing well. “We’re really encouraged by the response,” he said. “It goes beyond the plan.”
In addition to the London store, Vuori also launched in March online and through wholesale channels in seven countries: UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia and Canada. The expansion includes local retailers including Selfridges, Harrods, Equinox in the UK and Breuninger in Germany. And in late September, it added China, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Middle East and Mexico to its global rollout.
Kudla said that going forward the plan is to continue to expand its reach in Western Europe by adding more stores in London and elsewhere, and China is also in its sights. “We have just launched on Tmall and we will open our first physical store there within two years,” he said.
Kudla thinks the future is bright for Vuori, both in the United States and beyond. “In the peak of the inflationary environment and the potentially impending recession, we remain cautiously optimistic.”
So with such an ambitious expansion strategy, is a public offering in the brand’s future? “It’s hard to say,” Kudla replied. “Right now, we’re focused on creating building blocks for the future.”