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A company named after the first reptile to develop the feather for flight — archaeopteryx lithographica — is moving to expand its fledgling store portfolio.

Founded in 1991, Vancouver, British Columbia-based Arc’teryx is a manufacturer of high-performance outdoor apparel and equipment. Although the brand’s roots lie in the climbing landscape, it has long since expanded to include skiing, backpacking and other outdoor activities.

Arc’teryx enjoys a loyal folowing and a distribution network of more than 3,000 retail locations in 40 countries worldwide. In recent years, it has also focused on taking its brand directly to consumers, both online and in the physical space.

In July, the company opened a 2,300-sq.-ft. flagship in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. It is Arc’teryx’s 10th fully owned retail store in North America, with seven in the United States and three in Canada. Two more locations are in the works and will open by fall: one in Chicago, and a second location in Toronto.

Chain Store Age editor Marianne Wilson spoke with Adam Ketcheson, Arc’teryx’s VP marketing and business-to-consumer, about the company’s positioning and plans going forward.

How is Arc’teryx positioned?

Arc’teryx is positioned as the leader in the design and manufacturing of technical apparel and equipment. We operate under industrial design principles rather then traditional apparel design principles. We stand out from our competition by consistently bringing the highest quality and innovative construction methodology that adds real value.

What is the demographic?

The typical Arc’teryx consumer is someone who shares our values around design and quality. Although we are a benchmark in the apparel industry, our brand isn’t very well known with mass consumers. However, our consumer is extremely loyal. We built that loyalty by giving people exceptional product experiences.

With a successful wholesale and online business, why did the brand decide to enter the physical space?

Every channel has a purpose with consumers. Owned retail [stores] is the best way to have a human experience with consumers, and is an important touchpoint for consumers as they decide what brands they want to surround themselves with.

A brand store enables consumer conversations in a way that isn’t possible through digital or through a partner’s store environment.

Tell us about the Arc’teryx store experience.

Our store experience is about working with the individual spaces to tease out local elements and materials, while at the same time making sure that the emotional experience is consistent with our global fleet. We focus on trying to inspire consumers with brand storytelling, beautiful product presentation and high service.

What is the product range in the stores?

The mix is split evenly between items for men and women. We set the floor about 60/40 men to women.

How many stores will you open in 2017?

We are aiming to open four stores in the United States and Canada. Plus, we will be updating our Montreal location.

When opening stores, what type of location do you look for? Is there an average store size that works best?

We sequence our stores in new markets by entering in urban freestanding locations, then expanding to lifestyle centers in markets where the brand has enough awareness. Our

sweet spot is between 2,000 and 3,000 sq. ft.

Outlet centers are booming. Will that be a part of your strategy going forward?

We look at premium outlets as part of our cluster strategy in key markets. It’s an important part of our mix, but not a growth driver.

In the online arena, Arc’teryx has made some key investments to improve its digital experience. What are some highlights?

We are constantly investing in digital, as we consider it to be the second most important consumer touchpoint after product. And the consumer response has been very strong. Our brand is highly researched and digital is a critical part of the consumer journey. We’ll continue to invest heavily in digital so we keep pace with the consumer.

Is the brand active on social media?

We’re active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Weibo and WeChat.

As it expands in its various channels, what is Arc’teryx’s biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge and opportunity is the speed at which consumer behavior is changing. The expectations around brand experience from consumers continue to escalate as consumers look for real authentic value.

As long as we stay grounded in our core values and try to inspire consumers, we should be able to adapt to whatever trend hits the channel whether that is mobile, show-rooming, demographic shifts, etc.

What’s your favorite sport?

Backcountry skiing!

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