Rails accelerates its retail development in Europe
Jeff Abrams may feel like its still the beginning of the adventure, but the founder of Rails now runs a label worth over $100 million (€94 million). The Californian brand, which was born in 2008 and became successful with its comfortable rayon check shirts worn by Los Angeles stars, now offers more than 250 pieces in its collections. Rails has expanded its offering to include dresses, blazers and sleeved pieces as well as denim, and has been rolling out a men's collection for the past two years. In 2020, when the future of physical shops was overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, its director opted for the opening of boutiques and a presence in department stores. A good decision, seeing as Rails is now growing rapidly.
"A crucial point with retail is that it allows us to show how we want to present the brand. We still have retailers looking for the shirts, but in the shops we show them how the offer is evolving, with printed dresses, dressier garments and denim. When we introduce a new category, we first test it in our stores. This gives a feeling of exclusivity. And above all our partners see that it works," explains Mackenzie Bryant, the brand's European director.
In 2023, Rails, which already has two shops in New York and two in Los Angeles, is aiming to open five shops across the Atlantic, in the Upper East Side of New York, Boston and Georgetown, near Washington DC. The brand will also expand into Texas, Houston and Austin. "A strategy of setting up in secondary cities. We don't want to open several shops in every city," explains the founder. "But I want shops that mix the Californian spirit with local culture in strong locations in key cities."
In Europe, after opening a shop in London's Covent Garden district, Rails has perpetuated its pop-up shop on rue de Poitou in the Paris Marais and set up shop in Amsterdam. In France, it has a corner at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, is present at the BHV and has entered a handful of locations in the regional department stores' network.
This visibility has reassured retailers; the brand now has 80 points of sale in France. So much so that its website will be available in French from April. And Jeff Abrams would also like to find an address for the brand in Aix-en-Provence or Saint-Tropez.
On the strength of this development, and even if the conditions of the European economy are currently complex, Rails is looking at other markets. The label is preparing to enter the German department stores Kadewe in the next few days. And, following the example of what it did in Paris, it is exploring opportunities to open in Berlin. These European developments make it possible to consider sourcing production in Europe for the next few seasons, while the brand already works with Turkey for its denim.
Jeff Abrams explains that direct-to-consumer sales (retail and web) now account for a third of his turnover and that he is aiming for 40% soon. "But we're fortunate that wholesale is growing so fast now. This year, I'm expecting a 25% growth to reach between 130 and 140 million dollars in turnover. It's true that this is becoming important," smiles the founder. "But today we have 150 people and the first two employees are still here. So it's still a family business in spirit. I want to keep the emotion of the brand."
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