Outdoor brand Kühl recently opened a store in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, marking its fourth retail location in the U.S. as part of a larger play to expose the brand to tourists and visiting outdoor enthusiasts.
To discuss the company’s retail strategy, its new product offerings, and overall business climate, The Daily spoke with Tara Stoufer, director of retail and merchandising at Kühl Clothing Company.
“Jackson Hole was just a remarkable location and a remarkable opportunity that we were able to partake in,” she said. “I couldn’t be more excited to have a location that has this rich culture and connection to the community.”
Despite its German-sounding name, the company originated in the United States, in Salt Lake City. It has been around for about 40 years, initially offering performance clothing, including technical outdoor apparel as well as workwear.
Kühl opened its first retail store in Park City in 2016, its second store in San Francisco in 2018, and third in Seattle in 2019.
The company employs 100-150 people, and its products are sold at more than 1,200 retailers, according to Kühl.
Since Stoufer started her tenure with Kühl about five years ago, her focus has been primarily on the company’s brickand-mortar stores and helping to build infrastructure for sustained growth.
When the pandemic hit, the company took a step back to reassess its growth. The question Stoufer asked herself at the time: Would Kühl rather be successful, or effective?
“I’ve always answered effective, because when you’re effective you’ve built the systems and processes that will sustain that growth and sustain success over time, regardless of any external factors,” she said.
That meant slowing the growth of Kühl’s brick-and-mortar operations, which allowed the company to focus on supporting infrastructure and a consistent consumer experience.
As for more expansion in the future, Stoufer said that depends on what Kühl’s customers want. But the company isn’t set on opening X number of stores by Y date.
“For us, it’s really about how do we open up the right store in the right place at the right time,” she said.
Kühl is more focused on engaging its customer base and providing a memorable experience, Stoufer added.
Like many brands in the industry, Kühl has listened to consumers asking for apparel with sun protection.
The sun protection fabric in Kühl’s Eclipser collection is lightweight while remaining durable, according to Stoufer.
Kühl is also touting its Radikl Outsider pant, with Dynawax Ripstop fabric that’s wind and water resistant and comes with adjustable leg openings.
The company’s focus on design is an “intersection where beauty and design meet logic and reason,” Stoufer said. “It’s having that form and function meet that fit and style.”
A Kühl customer can wear their apparel to go hiking, for example, then also have cocktails afterwards or meet a friend for dinner, according to Stoufer.
She sees the integration of lifestyle and activities as a growing trend and a way to appeal to new entrants to the market. Customers are looking for ways to add value to their purchases, and having products that are versatile resonates with them.
“When they find that perfect apparel that has the quality and durability that we focus on, but it also has comfort and it looks good, of course that’s going to be ticking all of the boxes,” Stoufer said. “That’s something that adds even higher value for that customer.”
As the business expands, Kühl has remained cautiously optimistic.
“Things are going well, and we are focused on sustained growth through this next period,” Stoufer said. “We’ve kept tight to our inventory propositions. We really tried to focus on remaining a full-price brand and remaining a brand that could show up for that customer experience.”
As the company expands its brick-and-mortar stores, it also increases its brand awareness and engages with new consumers, which in turn strengthens its e-commerce and wholesale business, she said.
Having locations in destination cities such as San Francisco and Seattle, as well as tourist destinations like Jackson Hole, means that Kühl can engage with consumers from a wide variety of places.
“The goal would be that they’re engaging with Kühl in a store, they’re remembering the experience through the people that they met, the stories they heard and the products they felt, then they’re going back to wherever it may be and they’re finding our brand,” Stoufer said. That could come in the form of online shopping or in another retail store, she added.
“It’s increasing that product and consumer confidence to continue to engage with us,” Stoufer said.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.