Apparel is among the hardest hit retail sectors during the pandemic, but that hasn’t hindered direct-to-consumer athleisure brand Vuori.
CEO Joe Kudla wouldn’t provide specific numbers, but said the brand is on track to grow 180% year-over-year. The business was already growing prior to the pandemic, attracting a $45 million investment from Norwest Venture Partners, which has invested in companies like Dairy Queen and Casper, last year in exchange for a minority stake.
Unsurprisingly, Vuori’s growth is due to its digital presence, which has helped it thrive during this difficult time. Plus, Kudla credits the online growth to its product assortment, with increasingly relevant items such as sweatpants and loungewear.
Before Covid-19, the athleisure specialist had planned for half of its sales to be generated online, while 40% would come from wholesale and the remainder from its retail stores, Kudla said. Instead, 70% of the company’s business will come from its ecommerce operations, while wholesale will constitute 24% and retail will drop to 6%.
At the onset of the outbreak, wholesale clients began placing holds on their orders. Over time, many holds morphed into cancellations. But that ended up being a non-issue for the brand, which needed the inventory to fulfill online orders. Sales from its digital operations are expected to grow 330% alone this year.
“We needed to come up with as much inventory as possible to service direct,” Kudla said.
That’s not to say Vuori, which counts Nordstrom and REI as retail partners, has given up on wholesale, Kudla explained. It will just constitute a smaller percentage of the overall business. Vertical retail will also continue to have a role as the apparel brand gleans insights from customers who visit its physical locations, he said.
Kudla also cited the company’s shift in marketing as a reason for its success, saying Vuori has “pivoted our messaging to be more authentic to how people were living their lives.”
Previously, Vuori’s marketing was focused on outdoor activities and travel, but as those fell out of favor, the messaging shifted to being at home, he said.
The company never cut back on its ad spending, whose costs dropped by as much as 50%, Kudla said. Social media channels represent some 60% of the company’s outreach, with direct mail also proving effective.
Vuori is about expand to a new channel, with a connected television launch planned for the fourth quarter. Going forward, radio is a possibility, and influencers are going to play a large role in its marketing, too.
“Our business is reaching a certain scale, and we are looking at different channels,” Kudla explained.
At the core of the apparel brand’s current content is the broadcasting of workouts on Instagram Live: Since late March, the company has hosted about 80 of these classes, which in turn have garnered 450,000 views. Other programming includes morning “rise and shine” conversations that Kudla conducts with guests who align with Vuori’s values, such as former professional basketball player Steve Nash and singer-songwriter Jason Mraz.
It all ties into the company’s tagline, he said: “Investment in happiness.”