As new sales director for North America, Elliott Nolan is on a mission to sell Jack Wolfskin in the right stores.
To do that, he isn’t trying to appeal to the biggest shops on the continent.
“Our aim is to introduce the brand to as many outdoor specialty retailers as possible who can help tell the brand story,” Nolan said in an interview with The Daily.
Jack Wolfskin was recently honored for developing a better waterproof jacket design at the fifth annual Outdoor Retailer Innovation Awards at the Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in January.
Headquartered in Idstein, Germany and founded in 1981, Jack Wolfskin operates more than 500 stores and has products in more than 4,000 points of sale worldwide, according to the company. It employs more than 1,440 people.
The brand is best known for outerwear and equipment for backpacking and travel. Jack Wolfskin’s goods are available in 30 countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Ireland, and more.
Callaway Golf (now Topgolf Callaway Brands) purchased Jack Wolfskin for $476 million in a deal that closed in January of 2019. After the acquisition, the company entered the North American market.
However, the wholesale business was impacted by the COVID pandemic at that time, which led to a challenging debut in the region.
North American Expansion
Last summer, Jack Wolfskin named Jon Hanson, a former executive at Mountain Hardwear, Salomon, Atomic and Arc’teryx, general manager of North America.
Under Hanson’s leadership, the company is looking to build Jack Wolfskin’s footprint in outdoor specialty retail.
To help do so, Hanson appointed Nolan (formerly of Ruffwear, Arc’teryx and Klean Kanteen) as director of sales in North America.
The company is particularly interested in working with mom-and-pop and brick-and-click retailers, meaning those with a combination brick-and-mortar and online operation.
“Our primary focus is to create some great long-term partnerships with the front lines of the outdoor industry,” Nolan said.
When evaluating a specialty retailer to work with, Nolan looks for a store that engages with its customers and curates its product offerings.
For example, he’s looking for a store with employees who can educate consumers about why the company’s products are superior to another brand.
“It’s fair to say that not everybody reads all the hang tags,” Nolan said. “When two jackets or shirts are sitting next to each other, they may appear the same. But one may be built in an entirely different way and be made of recycled components or have standards for animal welfare that the other doesn’t. And unless someone engages with that customer and tells them the difference, they may not discover it on their own.”
As far as selling to the larger chain retailers, Nolan said the company is “testing the waters” to see what makes sense. No matter the size, Jack Wolfskin wants to form close partnerships with its wholesale account base.
“You can maximize distribution through as many touch points as possible, or you can be selective with your partners,” he added. “I’d like to think we fall on the latter end of that spectrum.”
Nolan is tasked with expanding the company across four North American geographies: New England, Intermountain, Rocky Mountain and Western.
To identify where to expand, he looks at the traffic on the Jack Wolfskin e-commerce site and tracks where the visitors are located.
“We’re looking at specific epicenters where the brand is clearly going to resonate first,” Nolan said.
Some key markets that drive Jack Wolfskin’s online sales include the New York City metropolitan area, the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes region. Nolan also wants to make sure the brand succeeds in warmer climates such as the southern U.S. and isn’t only thought of as a fall and winter brand.
To start off its North American expansion, the company is releasing a limited portion of its global line.
“As we get started here, we need to understand what our most commercial styles are for retailers so we can show success as we grow,” Nolan said.
“The U.S. market is quite different than Europe. So things that may resonate here more may not have the same draw in Europe and vice versa.”
In the near term, the company is focused on signing up new retailers for the fall-winter ‘23 season.
Currently, Jack Wolfskin products are available in Public Lands stores, Bluezone Sports, Kittredge Sports, Sports Basement, Appalachian Outfitters, Gibbons and several other outdoor and golf retailers across the country.
Nolan couldn’t give an exact number of stores that carry the company’s products in North America but said it’s in the “0-50 magnitude.”
Outdoor Retailer Innovation Award
The brand accomplished the innovation that won an Outdoor Retailer award by eliminating the seam sealing tape to make a more durable, breathable and high-quality waterproof shell. The result is called the Tapeless Jacket and it took a bit of teamwork for the company to produce it.
“The Tapeless Jacket was created in close collaboration between the fabric and garment design and development teams,” said Regina Goller, Jack Wolfskin’s director of fabric and trim management apparel. “In taped jackets, the tape reduces breathability and durability.”
In addition, the tape is often the weakest component of the jacket and the first component to fail. Once it fails, the jacket is usually thrown out.
“With tapeless technology, we can counteract this and increase waterproofness at the seams,” she said.
The key to the Tapeless Jacket is in its manufacturing process. “With our sewing technology, the needle only penetrates the outer fabric and doesn’t penetrate the laminate,” said Goller. “This creates a continuous membrane layer in the jacket, therefore eliminating the need for extra seam tape.”
In addition, this proprietary sewing technique allows each Tapeless Jacket to eliminate up to 60 feet of seam sealing tape.
The Jack Wolfskin development team is continuing to improve the design and is releasing version 2.0 this spring. The main difference is the new design features two raised hip pockets instead of one chest pocket.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at email@example.com.