SILVER Jeans Co. is going retail.
The division of Winnipeg-based Western Glove Works, best known for its Silver Jeans line sold by a variety of retailers throughout North America, is preparing to open five of its own branded outlets in the United States by November. The plan is to roll out 25 to 30 stores throughout North America within the next five years and 50 outlets in the next decade.
Michael Silver, the company's CEO, said the decision to branch out with its own locations after many years of specializing on the wholesale side was heavily influenced by the changing face of retail.
He said it's increasingly difficult for an independent brand to get shelf space when the number of retailers selling multiple brands under the same roof is dwindling.
"There is a dominant element of brands that have their own retail (stores), like Guess, Banana Republic, Lucky Brand and The Gap. Malls are being filled with retailers where the store is the brand and the brand is the store," he said.
Texas is the initial focus of Silver Jeans' retail push, as three of the five stores will be located in the Lone Star state -- The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston, in July, McAllen in September, and Frisco, outside Dallas, in November.
The easiest way for Winnipeggers to see what Silver Jeans locations have to offer -- the stores will all have an "urban-loft apartment feel" to them and cover 2,000 to 3,000 square feet -- is to visit the Mall of America in Minneapolis after that location opens in August. The fifth store is scheduled to open in October in Los Angeles.
Silver said the first wave of retail is expected to cost the company between $5 million and $10 million.
The company is eyeing the Canadian market within the next few years, too.
"Winnipeg has a couple of significant malls (Polo Park and St. Vital) and they would definitely be under consideration," he said.
Fang Wan, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Manitoba's I.H. Asper School of Business, is a fan of Silver Jeans' further vertical integration.
"I think it's a very good move. When you don't have your own stores, you end up competing with a lot of other brands in the store of the distributor. I think that's very messy. It's a clutter of brands," she said.
Being able to control what goes on the product shelves also provides the possibility of expanding into other product lines -- Wan suggested shoes as an example -- which can further extend the brand in the minds of consumers.
Silver Jeans currently produces more than 200 different clothing items for men and women, including T-shirts, shirts, jackets and sweaters.
Having their own retail locations also presents an excellent opportunity to boost volumes, Silver said. He's hoping to see the $160 million it brings in annually from its wholesale business jump to $250 million annually in three years.
Silver Jeans are currently available in Winnipeg at retailers such as Below the Belt, Bootlegger, October Boutique and Sargent Blue Jeans.
Its sweet spot is men and women between 18 and 35, with a mid-market -- Silver calls it "mid-luxury -- offering.
The company no longer produces its high-end line of 1921 jeans and has stopped producing licensee products for the likes of former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and solo artist Sheryl Crow.
Silver Jeans is owned by Silver, his brother, Bob Silver, and Ron Stern. The latter two are also co-owners of the Winnipeg Free Press.