“I think it’s rather simple, honestly,” Brayton says. “I think Woolrich has remained true to the brand in terms of the quality goods that we offer. There’s certainly an expectation from our customers that they will receive something that will stand on its own for a long period of time.
“When you look at the brand holistically and look at what we offer, one of the things that you’ll notice is that we try to stick to who we are as a brand and our core values,” Brayton continues.
Woolrich has remained based in Woolrich, Pa., ever since its inception, and Brayton says the company continues to demonstrate the integrity with which it conducts business as a family run enterprise. “We’re the type of people who do what we say and say what we’ll do,” he says.
Woolrich also is committed to being an American manufacturer, and Brayton says that contributes to the company’s strong reputation for integrity. “I think a big part of the brand’s DNA has always been that we represent made-in-the-USA products in some way, and we still do that today,” Brayton says.
In the years since John Rich opened his woolen mill and started making Woolrich’s first fabrics, socks, coverlets and yarns, the United States has changed a lot, but the company’s products have changed very little. For example, the company provided woolen blankets to Union soldiers during the Civil War, and those very same blankets are some of the company’s most popular items today. Other products introduced in the 19th century, including its Railroad Vest and Buffalo Check Shirt, are still available today.
The fact that Woolrich has stayed true to its core concepts for more than 185 years means customers know what to expect from the company, Brayton says. “Woolrich is a lifestyle brand, and to be very frank, a lot of other brands try to be different things that are non-lifestyle – whether they are technical or purposeful garments – whereas Woolrich tries to stick to offering products that are just for the outdoors,” he says.
Woolrich’s product line consists of four labels, each serving a different type of customer but all unified in the same commitment to high-quality woolen outdoor apparel that has characterized the company for its entire history. “Wool is a big part of who we are as a brand, and as a company,” Brayton says.
The Woolrich Original label is exemplified by classic styling and timeless design, including men’s and women’s fashions that are casual and comfortable yet rugged enough for whatever the elements can bring to bear. The Woolrich White label features a contemporary look and feel, while at the same time still calling to mind the classic Americana that is the company’s hallmark.
Designed in Europe and featuring a more cosmopolitan style, the John Rich & Bros. label would look as fashionable on the streets of Paris or New York as they would in the woods of Pennsylvania. Woolrich’s most fashion-conscious label, Woolrich Woolen Mills, presents a line of clothing and outerwear that brings a designer sensibility to the company’s signature fabrics.
In addition to the company’s labels of outdoor apparel, Woolrich also provides its famous wool blankets as well as an extensive footwear collection. The company’s footwear selection includes men’s and women’s shoes, boots, slippers, socks and sandals, all lined with the company’s signature wool. Woolrich supplements its main clothing lines with a full assortment of men’s and women’s accessories, as well. Items such as gloves, belts, bags, hats and watches are designed to fit in with the company’s classic styling, and many are made with the same wool as the company’s chief products.
Open For Business
Even though sticking to the core values of the company has been a major component of its success, Woolrich continues to evolve in ways that elevate the brand but also remain true to the values that have made the brand what it is today. By opening its flagship retail store in New York City and redesigning its e-commerce site in 2014, Brayton says Woolrich has given itself even more ways to reach out to customers to deliver the same high-quality outdoor apparel they have come to expect from the brand.
With the fanfare deserving of a legendary brand such as Woolrich, the company opened its first-ever flagship retail location in the United States in mid-September. “We’ve always been believers that brick-and-mortar should be a bigger piece of our business,” Brayton says.
The new flagship store is in the Soho neighborhood of New York City, and Brayton says Woolrich is very pleased to have a presence in a city that is so important for the company in many different ways. Not only are many of Woolrich’s employees based in New York City, Brayton says, but the city’s status as one of the centers of the fashion world meant it was important that Woolrich have a physical presence in the city. “The stars just sort of aligned for all of that to come together,” Brayton says.
The flagship store showcases all of Woolrich’s collections, including men’s and women’s apparel as well as the company’s famous blankets. Brayton says the open layout of the store and the design connects it to the core strengths of the brand in a way that makes customers feel their own connection to Woolrich immediately. “There’s some vintage furniture that we’re showcasing in the store that lends itself to our heritage, as well,” Brayton says, adding that the store is laid out to showcase the company’s blankets, which are a major part of the company’s heritage. “We felt that was very important to centerpiece.”
The store’s open-floor concept also creates a very customer-centric atmosphere that Brayton says appeals to shoppers from all over the world. “It has sort of an international panache to it in the sense that we’re offering a lot of products that we think are right not only for American customers, but customers globally,” he says.
Woolrich redefined its brick-and-mortar experience for shoppers in 2014, but the company also experienced a renaissance in its Internet presence last year, as well. Brayton says the company launched a redesigned e-commerce site in 2014, and the new site offers customers a streamlined experience that showcases all of the Woolrich labels and brand experiences in a single place.
Brayton says the goal of the new site design was to demonstrate to customers that the Woolrich brand is more flexible and elastic than they might believe by showing off all of its labels and product lines equally. “That’s the biggest initiative in terms of why we’ve redesigned the website,” Brayton says.
With the expansion Woolrich has experienced in its retail and e-commerce operations in 2014, Brayton says one of the company’s biggest challenges is making sure it continues to work with all the various retailers who want to work with it to the fullest extent possible. He says there are more retailers lined up to work with Woolrich now than ever before, and the challenge is making sure the company continues to uphold its values for its customers while also giving its retail partners the attention they need. “We don’t want to shortchange anybody,” Brayton says.
The opening of the company’s flagship store last year was a major milestone for Woolrich, and Brayton explains the response from shoppers continues to be extremely encouraging for the company. “I would say it has been a resounding success,” Brayton says. “We’ve been extremely pleased with the foot traffic, the revenue and the response to the store in general.”
With the success of the Soho store, Woolrich plans to continue expanding its retail presence.
“We believe in brick-and-mortar; we want to open more stores,” Brayton says, adding that retail stores are just the tip of the iceberg for the company’s plans in 2015. “Woolrich has a lot of exciting things that we’re working on, and we’re excited about announcing them in the near future.”