Growth and expansion. They are the objectives of many who enter into the world of retail and represent the end goal of just about every strategy that’s developed within the industry. However, the difficulties involved in achieving these objectives can prove to be a lot more daunting than most realize. And, attempting to do so while maintaining the integrity of a brand’s original vision and its philosophies around retailing can seem next to futile. But despite the challenges inherent in growth, as well as those that have been brought about by the COVID-19 global pandemic, it’s exactly what Moose Knuckles – Canada’s exceptional luxury outerwear brand – is currently undertaking with aggressive plans to expand its current network. And, according to Co-Founder and current Chief Marketing Officer, Ayal Twik, they are plans that are supported by the company’s recent announcement of a new bold corporate strategy, and its penchant to preserve the creative edge that Moose Knuckles has become known for amongst its loyal community of customers.
“Noah and I founded Moose Knuckles and brought it from near zero to where it is today,” says Twik, referring to his Co-Founding partner and the company’s Chief Product Officer, Noah Stern. “It’s an achievement that we’re really proud of. However, in order to help the brand grow further, taking it to the next level, we’re really pleased and excited to have recently brought in some amazing talent that we’ve been able to learn and benefit from. And as we continue to scale, we’re going to need people within the company who understand through their experience what it means to grow. And, we need people who understand the value of maintaining creativity and are not afraid to take calculated risks. It’s been an incredibly exciting journey and process to this point. And we’re really looking forward to continuing with our growth plans, expanding both here at home as well as internationally.”
As Twik explains, in order to help Moose Knuckles achieve its goals, he and Stern brought in some talent. And, it’s some amazing talent, indeed. Terence Bogan joins the brand as its Chief Merchant, having already excelled in similar roles with Barneys New York, Holt Renfrew and Urban Outfitters. Named to the position of Vice President of Women’s Design is former Tom Ford and Burberry designer, Joseph McGee. And, partnered with as CEO, and charged with leading the brand’s global vision, is the former CEO of Coach and Tapestry, Victor Luis, who has also invested in the company to become a significant partner. It’s a bold move that’s been made by the company. But, as Twik explains, it’s a move that, given the individuals who were appointed to these positions, makes perfect sense for the brand. And, he adds, they are appointments that represent a real signal of intent on the part of Moose Knuckles to take the next step as a company.
“Victor, Terence, Joseph and others bring so much talent, experience and knowledge to the company,” he asserts. “They’ve all worked at massively successful brands and have seen growth and expansion firsthand. It’s something they all have in common. But, each of them also possesses a deep appreciation for creativity, which is what the Moose Knuckles brand is anchored to. Their expertise is going to be critical in allowing us to create and innovate while scaling. Noah and I are just two modest Canadians trying to make it on the world stage. And it’s so beneficial to have great leaders around us who have been there before and know how to do it. I have learned so much just being around our amazing team.”
With offices in Montreal, New York, Milan and Shanghai, and currently operating a network of 34 stores comprised of permanent and pop-up locations throughout North America, Europe and Asia, Moose Knuckles has enjoyed tremendous success to this point. Having not even celebrated 15 years in business, the brand has risen to the upper echelon of the luxury outerwear category. And having just opened new stores at Toronto’s Eaton Centre and a pop-up at the Rideau Centre in Ottawa, as well as Main Street locations in Montreal, Chicago and Boston, it seems the brand’s growth strategy is rolling out quite smoothly. Moose Knuckles’ wholesale business is also substantial, with product distributed in over 30 countries within premium retailers, including Selfridges, Holt Renfrew, Saks Fifth Avenue, Isetan, and Lane Crawford, to name a few. However, with a still burgeoning legion of fans and flourishing customer-base around the world, Twik’s confident that there remains a lot of untapped potential for the brand to further increase its presence in even more markets. And, he says, the company’s approach to growth, behind the leadership of Luis, will continue to be driven by consumers of the brand.
“We continue to grow really quickly,” he says. “And, much of our growth through the years has been pretty organic. We tend to grow where we see demand, allowing our consumers to dictate to us where we should be opening stores, leveraging data and information concerning sentiment based on our wholesale business, hits on our website and visitors to our Instagram account. And when we see that our consumers are reaching out to us, we tend to grow in those markets. The U.K. is a growing market for us and we plan to open a flagship over there within the next 12 to 24 months. China is obviously another huge market for luxury brands where we already operate six stores with a focus on growing that number rapidly. South Korea, too, represents a big opportunity for us where we also want to continue expanding. But, as I mentioned, we like to keep this process extremely organic. We’re not often going to open a store in a market that doesn’t know who we are. It’s all about building a community for us and allowing that community to guide and direct our strategies with respect to growth.”
Twik goes on to explain that approaching the company’s growth in this way, by maintaining an entrepreneurial spirit, ensures that the journey for he and Stern, and the entire team around them, remains fun and exciting. Afterall, they are characteristics of the brand that have helped propel it to the status it enjoys today as one of the fastest growing luxury brands worldwide. They are also traits, according to the brand’s Chief Marketing Officer, that are borne of an honest and genuine approach to fashion, one that differentiates Moose Knuckles from most of its competitors, serving as a catalyst for its ever-increasing appeal both in Canada as well as internationally.
“Moose Knuckles has really resonated with a number of consumers, particularly among a younger demographic,” he points out. “We decided from the start to take a bit of a different approach when it comes to marketing the brand. We’re very real and authentic and don’t tend to take ourselves too seriously. Afterall, we’re creating and producing fashion which we perceive as an artform. But it doesn’t have to be pretentious. That message, that kind of irreverence and cultural provocation, has really appealed to a certain group of consumers. And, the fact that we make amazing garments that are super-functional with a creative edge really serves us well. It’s a combination of our quality and our approach to marketing that’s set us apart from other outerwear companies and has helped us grow internationally.”
Driving brand excitement
The trajectory that the brand has enjoyed of late is nothing short of meteoric, posting significant double-digit year-over-year growth for the past five years. In fact, the company’s rise has been so swift of late that it experienced nearly triple-digit growth in direct-to-consumer sales, in addition to extraordinary growth of more than 75 percent in China in 2021 alone. These numbers are representative of incredible success, despite the time they are generated. However, when considering the fact that they were achieved during a global pandemic, the results become that much more impressive. Though the company faced a number of serious challenges related to the supply chain over the past couple of years, spending significantly more on ensuring product was able to be distributed throughout the world, Twik points to the accelerated digitization that’s occurred during this time and today’s digital-savvy consumer as positive forces of its growth.
“It was pretty scary at the start of the pandemic,” he admits. “But I’m super-proud of the entire team for the way we handled everything, allowing us to continue growing. We were able to do this, withstanding much of the impacts of the pandemic, because of our younger audience who are extremely adept digitally. As a result, our digital business really picked up, allowing us to reach more customers in more markets where we don’t currently operate. There’s so much runway left for us as a brand with respect to the growth of our community, which is really built primarily around lifestyle, and reflecting that lifestyle through fashionable apparel. Building the brand in this way has allowed us to sell just as many non-outerwear pieces, like ballcaps, t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies, as we do outerwear pieces. In fact, our Moose logo baseball cap is one of the best-selling skus in the company. And, we’ve also executed a lot of fun collaborations with different creatives and artists recently, including Telfar, Eckhaus Latta and Jenn Meyer, and we have a lot more planned for the year ahead. Driving that kind of excitement around the brand and providing our audience with an incredible experience, both in-store and digitally, is going to be key going forward.”
Remaining true amid expansion
When discussing Moose Knuckles’ global growth strategy, Twik is sure to underscore just how exhilarating the journey has been for he and Stern to this point. And he emphasizes their desire to remain true to the brand’s original vision, retailing philosophies and approach toward fashion. It’s something of a noble path that the company continues to navigate, along with the challenges inherent in a fast-transforming retail landscape. And, as Twik recognizes, it’s a journey that Moose Knuckles has only now begun to embark upon in full.
“Although our rate of growth over the last number of years has been quite rapid, Moose Knuckles is still a relatively small company. Essentially, we want to take everything that’s great about the brand – our creativity, honesty, irreverence and innovation – and expand on it to a larger audience in markets where there’s room for us to continue growing. And, what’s perhaps most exciting about our expansion and what we’re doing at the company is the fact that we already have a foothold in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia. Now it’s just about unleashing the brand throughout those markets. And it’s about being true to our creativity, the functionality of our garments and the Canadian craftsmanship that has always helped to grow the brand. Despite the fact that we may not take ourselves too seriously, these are things that we are very serious about and elements of the brand that we’re extremely proud of. And they are principles that will continue to drive Moose Knuckles forward well into the future.”