Andrea Westerlind is a retailing pioneer, she owns a small chain of stores, runs a showroom, designs a line and founded an outdoor-themed trade show. And yet she still finds time for a daily hike or bike ride.
“We bring in things that are pretty but also functional. Everything has to fit in with that framework,” explains Andrea Westerlind, the owner of Westerlind, her New York City–based urban outdoor mini business empire that now encompasses four brick-and-mortar stores in the US, an online shop, a multibrand wholesale showroom and a just launched in-house apparel line that she designs.
In the four years since she opened the first Westerlind store on Spring Street in New York’s trendy SoHo neighborhood, this native Swede has seen her business mushroom. She now operates additional shops in Eden, Utah at the base of Powder Mountain (opened summer 2015); Marin, California near San Francisco (opened fall 2015) and Jackson Hole, Wyoming (opened February 2017). And there are more to come: A shop in Denver will welcome its first customers later this year to be followed by one in Los Angeles in 2019. Stocked with bestselling brands such as Goldwin, Helly Hansen, New Balance, Danner Boots. Birkenstock and Vuarnet–the New York location impressively sold 55 pair of the brand’s $600 Glacier Sunglasses in one week during Christmastime–the typically classic and clean Scandinavian shops are expertly curated to sell outdoor merchandise to generally well-heeled city dwellers. “It’s very hard to speak about demographics. Our customers are 17 or 70. It’s a very wide spread,” she says of her client base. “Most of our locations have urbanites shopping there. Even in Jackson Hole a lot of our customers are from the city on vacation.” She adds: “I think demographics in big cities are sort of nonexistent anymore. I’ve seen old men in Supreme hats and young guys in Barbour coats. People just appreciate good product and iconic style.”
And they are willing to pay for it. “I think the urban customer has less space and more money so we want to buy fewer but better things,” Westerlind notes.
That said, this entrepreneur believes that her shoppers while technically being city mice, really do appreciate the outdoors. “Most of my customers are like me. I have a ski house in Utah and I go hiking almost every weekend and I really live for sailing and skiing and hiking and running but I just happened to be an urban resident. And I really try to combine those two–like every day there is a bike ride or a walk outside.”
And what’s her secret of being such an effective retailer? “For us it’s about education. We really try to show people how to use three-layer method or dress in three layers for all different climates. Through our stores and our website that’s really our mission. And then doing it in a very stylish way, of course.”
Having the showroom also helps. “We’re really crafty when it comes to combining the showroom business with the retail and the two support each other a lot,” she notes. “So when we branch out it is not like we’re starting a whole new business. A lot of the pieces are there already.” At the same time she notions another outdoor retailer as one of her biggest inspirations: “Our spring collection is inspired by Gary Neptune. He has a store called Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado and also has one of the largest mountaineering museums in the US. We became friends when I moved to the US and he invited me to his home and taught me to rock climb and showed me his museum and talked a lot about functional product and what’s good design and bad design. He’s this sort of grumpy old man but who really has a point of view that is very unique. His store is one of the biggest inspirations in my career.”
Being a part of the industry seemed to be her fate from the get-go. The third generation of a fashion manufacturing family in Sweden, she says learned the business “around the dinner table.” Infused with her country’s love of the outdoors, she moved to the US to start an outdoor showroom and very successfully took over the US distribution of Fjallraven at the time, placing the brand in such hip shops as Opening Ceremony and Barneys New York. “The brand really took off and it started this wider movement,” she recalls. “A lot of other brands became interested in using the same strategy.” And she now agrees that said crossover strategy is here to stay. “It’s not a trend anymore. It’s sort of a part of almost every shop, to have functional garments.”
Busy as she is, Westerlind, who also founded Above Tree Line, the outdoor-themed show-within-a-show at the Capsule trade fair, is please where her business is–and with the path where it’s headed. “We’re not like we’re the best or the biggest,” she says. “We are just here to provide great product and service and it seems to be working.”
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