Before founding their Copenhagen based distribution agency Rich & Hanc in 2012, Kasper Spacey and Mads Hancock collected more than 13 years of retail and wholesale experience in the apparel, footwear and eyewear industry, working for brands including Levi’s, G-Star and Superdry. Maybe it’s this corporate background that gives the two longtime friends the ease to think big. Over the six years of its existence, Rich & Hanc has evolved into one of THE go-to addresses when it comes to hip and up-and-coming streetwear brands (including Kappa Kontroll, The North Face Black Series, Filling Pieces, Sergio Tacchini or Suicoke, just to name a few) on both a national and European level. Now, the Danes are going global. Rich & Hanc has taken over the US distribution of all The North Face Tier 0 and Tier 1 lifestyle product (in a partnership with The North Face North America), Filling Pieces’ US and Canada sales, the worldwide distribution of Danish brand Muf10 and the complete European and North American sales rights for HTS74, sneaker brand Hi-Tec’s higher-end product.
The agency runs showrooms in Copenhagen, Paris, New York and Amsterdam and maintains partnerships with fellow international distribution companies such as Slam Jam from Italy. Plus the two founders have recently hired an experienced CEO to head their nine-person team and help taking the company to its next, international level. We chatted with the ambitious pair.
Kasper and Mads, how did you guys end up opening Rich & Hanc in the first place, what was your motivation?
“Go big or go home” and challenge the established way of running a showroom. Needless to say, but we wanted to do things differently. We wanted to bring together our relaxed approach, big know-how within sales and our huge experience in big cooperate companies, where structure is the key to success. Our goal was always to look beyond the borders of Scandinavia.
What is it that makes your agency stand out most strongly today?
Many people think that Rich & Hanc is only fun and games and travels all over the world, but we spend so much time and effort for planning go-to-market strategies, segmentation, analysis and improvements of current structures and building up brand knowledge. We always want to trim our company for the better and are not afraid of making changes.
To be an international showroom working with, what we think are the best global retailers across the various segments, we decided to focus on brands with strong identities and clear visions. This has enabled us to create a showroom where you do not cherry pick the collections. Our brands are carefully selected so they do not compete in any way. As a result, most of our business partners buy into more than one brand, and this ultimately creates stronger relations.
How do you pick the brands that you are working with? What’s crucial for a brand for you to add it to your portfolio?
Most importantly we need to like the brand on a personal level for us to be passionate about it. They also need to have a strong character and a story to match. We have never and will never take in a new brand/partner just to generate a big turnover if we do not like it ourselves. We have said no to a lot of big international partners the last couple of years simply because we could not identify with the brand.
How do you sense if something is going to become the next big thing?
That is a company secret, haha. But you do not pick up the next big thing by sitting at your office 12 months a year.
How do you guys split up jobs between the two of you?
We are both still very much involved in day-to-day sales since this is obviously the core base of our business, and we both “grew up” within sales in the industry. We are also involved in our staff, planning, go-to-market strategies and everyday duties. You cannot sit and rest on your laurels. We cannot get too comfortable. The day you are satisfied is the day that things will start to go south. That being said, we are extremely proud of what our company has achieved within a little shy of six years.
Furthermore, we spend a considerable amount of time branding the Rich & Hanc name globally. It is important to become a benchmark for companies that want to work with a global showroom that has a proven track record and does things differently. Kasper is responsible for PR/marketing and social media, whereas Mads is more into overall strategies, financial aspects and back office–but these things are not set in stone.
You recently brought a new CEO on board (Rene Lynge, previously Copenhagen Fur, G-Star Raw and Kaibosh). Why did you think that was necessary?
We hired Rene as general manager in September 2017 as we are confident that he has the experience in team management, the business knowledge and the international network that can help us increase our business. He fully understands the Rich & Hanc DNA just like the rest of our fantastic team. Experience is important, but if you do not fit into our profile personality-wise it will never be a happy marriage.
What does it take to be a good salesman in the streetwear environment?
There are a lot of key factors, but most importantly is the talent for sales, personality, structure and market knowledge. And then you need balls so you can challenge your partners and have the guts to say no to an incoming order. Not all orders are good orders.
When things get tough you cannot rely on social media to help you out, but your great relations and network can.
How do you build up your network of retailers/stores?
With long-term strategies, hard work, new brands that can cater to other segments than those already represented in our showroom and a lot of networking. Then we also travel a lot, both in-season and off-season. You need to be out in the different markets. That’s the best way to see what´s going on and get invaluable first-hand feedback.
A great network is key to success in the long stretch. Many brands/showrooms are so focused on the social media engagement that they forget about everything else. When things get tough you cannot rely on social media to help you out, but your great relations and network can. It’s a simple recipe but not easy to execute.
You guys are currently also gaining momentum in the US market. What do you think US brands such as The North Face and also European brands such as Filling Pieces & Hi-Tec HTS74 chose you to do their US distribution even though you are based in Copenhagen?
In regard to The North Face, this is a partnership that began about four years ago as a trial in Denmark. Back then there was no actual lifestyle collection, and we more or less shaped our own collection out of other current outdoor collections. Fast-forward four years and this partnership has developed into a global one: We handle The North Face’s Tier 0 and Tier 1 distribution in all of Europe and since 2018, even in the US.
We have been awarded with the task of building up premium lifestyle distribution for The North Face in the US based on our good results in Europe. Here we have helped to position The North Face as one of the most pinnacle lifestyle/tech brands with a focus on long-term strategies. This made us, as well as The North Face strongly believe that this success could be replicated in the US. On top of that we were willing to invest a lot of money in US based sales reps, showrooms and branding.
With Filling Pieces, it’s some of the same factors since we have already worked with the brand for 2.5 years in Scandinavia. We maintain a strong relationship and consider them our Dutch family. And we are confident that we can help Filling Pieces’ North America business grow even stronger with our different approach and local presence.
With Hi-Tec HTS74 we are currently building up a very premium distribution in the US with partners like Dover Street Market, Kith and SNS to name a few. We have the same approach as we have in Europe, which is “we are not in a hurry.” Instead, we need to build brand awareness with strong partners that have international reach. This is the only way to approach the very competitive sneaker market.
What is your view of the Copenhagen fashion scene? It always feels like the Copenhagen people are super stylish and really support their local brands, but also it feels a little “closed” and posse-like. How relevant is it on a global scale?
First of all, the whole industry is much more global than just a few years ago where you had a lot of local heroes. We don´t really like to talk about relevance or think about how others are looking at Denmark. We are part of a global multibillion dollar industry and each country and brand (as well as showroom) needs to figure out what their place is within this industry and go with it.