By Eric Smith

Royal Robbins is taking its apparel and accessories directly to consumers through an ambitious and adventurous brick & mortar initiative that kicks off in two strategic U.S. locales, the company’s CEO Michael Millenacker told SGB Executive this week.

The first two locations, dubbed “travel outfitting” stores, in the brand’s owned-retail launch are set to open this summer in Denver, CO, and Seattle, WA. And while Royal Robbins plans to open stores in other cities at some point down the road, those are still TBD, Millenacker said.

The mission, however, is crystal clear: Expand the company’s line of adventure travel apparel and accessories through a unique retail space in the country’s top outdoor markets, and in the process, share the brand’s heritage story in a more personal way.

“Our new concept is the result of a progressive new vision for the travel goods retail space: to offer a one-of-a-kind, travel guide-enabled shopping experience,” Millenacker said. “The environment is specifically designed and curated to provide the ultimate apparel and accessories outfitting experience for active travelers. Store staff are prepared, similar to a guide, to help travelers navigate the entire trip preparation process. By connecting with travelers on where they are going, what activities they will be doing and what climates to prepare for, our travel guides will expertly outfit travelers.”

The stores will be 2,500 square feet, with the number of workers per store still up in the air, Millenacker said. And while he also couldn’t comment on the total dollar amount that Royal Robbins and its parent company Fenix Outdoor International AG are investing in the retail venture, the concept was designed to be transformational.

“We plan to roll out more of these stores, enabling us to build brand awareness and create demand for our category of active travel apparel,” Millenacker said.

The Royal Robbins Denver locale will be in the city’s Highlands neighborhood and connected to a new store that’s also being opened by Royal Robbins’ sister brand Fjallraven. Customers will be able to shop both stores with one checkout, Millenacker said. The Seattle locale, also slated to open this summer, will be located in downtown Seattle near Pike Place Market.

Despite a soft brick & mortar environment, Royal Robbins is bullish on the concept as a critical omnichannel sales driver, one that will complement its e-commerce and wholesale channels while better connecting with consumers.

Both the Royal Robbins and Fjallraven stores, which are still under construction, were designed by Denver-based architecture and contracting firm Tres Birds Workshop, whose portfolio includes brick & mortar buildings for such outdoor retailers as Burton Snowboards and Evo.

For the Denver stores, the firm used repurposed materials, including reclaimed brick from a local demolished warehouse, discarded tiles from a local artisanal tile maker and wood taken from century-old Santa Fe Railway cars.

Along the same line, the Royal Robbins stores will feature “Royal’s Rewear” program, which allows customers will recycle or upcycle unwanted garments through a partnership with I:Collect, or I:CO.

The overarching goal is to bring the spirit of the Royal Robbins brand, one that centers on “responsible travel,” to a much wider audience.

“These stores will be marketing-driven and enable us a 3D landscape that is ideal for storytelling,” Millenacker said.

Royal Robbins, whose headquarters is in San Francisco, has been owned by Switzerland-based global outdoor apparel and equipment giant Fenix Outdoor International AG since early 2018. Along with Fjallraven, portfolio mates include Primus, Brunton and Hanwag.

Despite being part of a much larger, non-U.S. organization, Royal Robbins holds tight to the legacy of its namesake and founder, the legendary climber and adventurer who died in 2017.

As Millenacker told SGB in a 2018 interview, Royal Robbins the man still pervades everything that Royal Robbins the brand stands for.

“So much of the company is built around him, his values, his vision, his way of doing things,” Millenacker said. “[His death] had a pretty profound effect on us, but at the same time it solidified our quest for making his vision come to life. Our vision is we inspire adventure. Royal always wanted adventure, even in his everyday job, and he wanted our brand to remind you and inspire you to make life an adventure. So that’s what we set out to do. We want you to get out there and push yourselves.”

This latest move is, in some ways, a tangible—and much riskier—extension of the new logo Royal Robbins debuted in 2018, but it speaks to the same message the brand is trying to convey.

The “travel tree,” as the company’s employees call it, “combines our focus on adventure travel and the Yosemite pine tree, which is our heritage story,” Millenacker said in 2018.

“Everything that we’re doing now from a product perspective is really built around specific trips and climates and activities that you’re doing on these trips,” he said at the time. “The product vision is to build stylish apparel that’s also super versatile with a lot of functionality and sustainability and technology stories built for that adventure traveler.”

Photo and logo courtesy Royal Robbins