Justin Walford, GM of North America, Icebreaker, talks core consumers, outdoor specialty and e-commerce – and gives us a peek at what’s on tap for Spring 2018.
Writer: Carly Terwilliger
With a slew of recent additions to its North America team, New Zealand-based outdoor apparel brand Icebreaker has kept busy this year making tweaks, improvements and plans in the U.S. and Canada.
The uptick in merino popularity has been a boon for the wool-centric company, which was founded by Jeremy Moon in 1995 with an aim of providing garments for outdoor adventures with less reliance on petrochemical fibers. Since then, Icebreaker has branched into other natural performance fibers like organic cotton and Tencel, a sustainable fabric regenerated from wood cellulose.
Walford pointed out that it’s not hard to find Icebreaker in Canada – it has more than 500 wholesale doors and boasts 10 standalone retail locations in that country. “Retail locations extend our brand to consumers,” he explained, including the coveted “urban adventurer” who is related to but not quite the same as Icebreaker’s “core adventurer,” said Walford.
Both breeds of adventure-seeker can be effectively reached via outdoor specialty retailers, which Icebreaker has recently recommitted to by exiting the Sporting Goods as well as the Hunt & Fish categories. “We’re returning to our specialty roots and focusing on our core,” Walford said. Yet it’s worth mentioning that this core – like everyone else, it seems – is increasingly doing their shopping through online retailers like Backcountry, Moosejaw and, of course, Amazon.
“Amazon is increasing their share in a major way, especially in Canada,” observed Walford, and the way Americans in particular use Amazon is “unique – but it’s where the world is going.” According to Icebreaker’s internal Amazon analytics, 55 percent of U.S. consumers search for product info on that site, compared to the 28 percent that use a search engine. That’s just fine with Walford. “We’re excited about the relationship we have with Amazon,” he said, though it’s certainly not the only place for Americans to find Icebreaker product.
Finally, for the upcoming Fall 2017 season, Icebreaker teamed up with Japanese sports apparel house Goldwin Inc. for the Tabi Collection, which blends Icebreaker merino with Goldwin’s pared-back design. Tabi, Japanese Kanji for “Journey,” speaks to the heritage of supply chain within Icebreaker and this product’s own pathway. In line with Japanese style, the garments are simple and practical with clean colorways for everyday living.
Photos courtesy Icebreaker