SmartWool store opens in Beaver Creek
December 5, 2012
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs-based SmartWool has partnered with Vail Resorts to open a SmartWool store in the upscale Beaver Creek Village.
The 600-square-foot store opened Nov. 16 and marks the first such SmartWool-branded retail store in North America. (A SmartWool distributor owns and manages partnered SmartWool stores in South Korea and Japan.)
"We thought it was time to take a shot at it," SmartWool President Mark Satkiewicz said Tuesday.
Historically, SmartWool has been in the wholesale business selling its merino wool socks, apparel and accessories to retail operations as small as Allen's Clothing in downtown Steamboat and to companies as large as REI. Satkiewicz said there are 39 retailers in North America where SmartWool occupies 200 to 300 square feet of space, but that still was not enough space to showcase everything the brand offers.
"Our goal was always to create that stage where everyone could see how our products worked together," said Carol Davidson, SmartWool's vice president of marketing.
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A SmartWool store previously had not existed for a couple of reasons, Satkiewicz said. In the past, it was unclear whether SmartWool had enough products to support a year-round retail store. Also, as a wholesaler, SmartWool is not in the business of competing with its customers, the retailers purchasing the socks and apparel.
Satkiewicz said that he thinks the company now has the products to stock a store year-round and that the new store is not competing with a customer because it is owned and operated by an existing customer.
Satkiewicz said that in August he was contacted by Kat Jobanputra, the chief operating officer of Specialty Sports Venture. The 150-location company is owned by Vail Resorts and was interested in opening a branded SmartWool store.
After visiting the location, Satkiewicz gave his team the go-ahead to get to work on the store with an 11-week timeline.
While the former floral shop was remodeled, SmartWool worked with Specialty Sports Venture on the unique partnership that involved purchasing the products, designing the space and training staff members.
"They're giving us an opportunity to have a playground and to test this," said Amy Beck, SmartWool's vice president of sales.
SmartWool Creative Director Jen Howland was tasked with bringing the spirit of the SmartWool brand to the storefront and stocking the shelves with 1,800 pairs of socks and 300 base layers.
"It's a great representation of who we are as a company," Satkiewicz said.
In its first three weeks of business, Satkiewicz said, the store is "exceeding expectations at a significant level."
So will a SmartWool store open in the company's hometown?
"Who knows," Satkiewicz said. "We're very happy that we're able to test this idea."
As the company measures the success of the Beaver Creek store, he said, any future store likely would be done through a partnership with another company, and it is important for SmartWool to not compromise relationships with existing retailers.
Michelle Bauknecht, who buys merchandise for F.M. Light & Sons, said that she could see a SmartWool-branded store opening in Steamboat but that it could be difficult for Steamboat's mom-and-pop businesses to compete against it.
"There are a lot of retailers in town that sell SmartWool," she said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com