Duer Forges Ahead Post-Pandemic With New Los Angeles Location
After a year of shuttering stores and a decline in retail numbers, Duer is betting on bricks-and-mortar as the way to go. The performance-apparel brand recently announced that it would open its newest location in early September. The 1,850-square-foot retail space will be located at 170 S. La Brea Ave. and be a part of District La Brea with other well-known retailers including Fjällräven, American Rag Cie, Carhartt WIP and Champion.
“Opening a storefront in L.A. is something I’ve been wanting to do for years, so it’s really exciting and also not without a lot of complexities,” said co-founder of Duer Gary Lenett of the California expansion of the Vancouver, British Columbia, brand. “Call it crazy or committed, but I spend more time within the realm of excitement than worry. For several reasons, our product is perfect for the beach culture that’s synonymous with California. We’ve tracked our sales through both our e-commerce and wholesale divisions of the business, and we do have a loyal fan base in the L.A. area, which is cause to feel optimistic.”
Duer is known for what Lenett describes as “the world’s most comfortable pants,” which combine natural and sustainable materials made from resources such as eucalyptus trees, wood chips and recycled plastic bottles with performance features and fibers. The result is comfort, style and performance in multiple articles of clothing including jeans, joggers, shorts, tops and jumpsuits.
“We want to be the next big thing out of Vancouver, following in the path of brands like Arc’teryx and Lululemon,” Lenett said. “Pre-pandemic, we were doubling in size every year. Our growth is now being accelerated as we emerge from the pandemic and tap into an increased demand for comfortable performance apparel that is also stylish. Where other jeanswear and lifestyle brands can find some aspect of their offerings to meet this category, the combination of performance and style for Duer is built into our DNA as our central brand promise.”
According to multiple analysts, including “Retail Dive,” in 2020 e-commerce increased by more than 32 percent, foot traffic decreased by nearly 50 percent, the net of store openings versus closings was negative for the fourth year in a row, and bankruptcies increased.
Despite the discouraging numbers and retailers growing weary of on-site locations, Duer’s omni-channel approach allows the company to chart its own path and move forward with little worry. One thing Duer did to minimize this risk was shift to a new form of business because it was also hit hard by the pandemic.
“After losing 70 percent of our revenue overnight when the pandemic first hit, we were forced to pivot—and the result was a new made-to-order business channel, Next,” Lenett said. “The model lines up demand with supply so we are no longer left with excess inventory, and the result is a new low-waste solution to apparel production.”
Pre-ordering has worked for Duer and other retail brands in a current atmosphere where every penny counts. The shift to producing only what has been ordered also has a positive impact on the environment.
As an omni-channel business, Lenett said retail will continue to play a critical role in Duer’s business model. Storefronts don’t fit the traditional role of retail when it comes to an omni-channel business, but instead the new physical location in Los Angeles will act as a brand hub and not just a revenue driver. This also means that charting success is based on how the multiple channels are performing together within a region instead of just the profit of one store.
“There is an inherent benefit for a performance brand like ours that relies on communicating natural, rich stretch fabrics to have a physical retail space for customers to experience the product firsthand,” Lenett said. “In fact, we don’t just encourage people to touch the fabrics, we outfit our stores with performance playgrounds and bikes so you can take the product for a real trial.”
The retail store will also combine experiential and sensory elements to narrate the natural and sustainable materials Duer uses. The interactive and experiential design is nothing new as Duer’s first store in Vancouver employs a product testing ground.
The home base of Vancouver is sure to play a significant role in the L.A. location as the two cities share much of the California lifestyle, according to Lenett. Duer is inspired by the West Coast vibe and lifestyle, while its design is inspired by what people do and is built with performance to tackle any activity.
The L.A. location is just the first step in Duer’s expansion plans. Lenett said the company is hoping to open “at least a few more American stores” in the next six months. On top of that, Duer is also focusing on its women’s business, which is rooted in bottoms while mirroring the same extension into tops and accessories as the men’s business.
“Expansion is definitely the theme over the next few years,” Lenett said. “From storefronts to new categories to our global footprint through our network of wholesale partners, we’ve made some huge strides but still think we’re just entering our biggest growth opportunity. We are larger in Canada and parts of Northern Europe than we are in the U.S. We won’t be a secret in the U.S. for long.”
Photos courtesy of Duer.