Brand History at the Root of Filson's Success
Staying true to its 115-year-old brand heritage while evolving to remain relevant to today's consumers is the challenge facing cross-channel retailer Filson. The company's Vice President of Direct Sales Harold Egler outlined those challenges as well as how the company embraces its history in a keynote presentation yesterday at NEMOA's directXchange conference in Groton, Conn.
If you haven't heard of Filson, a manufacturer, wholesaler (the brand's clothing is carried by Nordstrom, Cabela's, Orvis) and direct retailer (three stores, e-commerce site, catalogs) of rugged outdoor clothing, gear and luggage, you're in the majority. Brand awareness is a struggle for Filson, Egler said. He asked the crowded ballroom via a show of hands who knew of the brand, and very few hands went in the air. Egler said on average one in 10 consumers knows of of Filson.
Consumers that have heard of Filson, especially its customers, are likely to have a passionate attachment to the brand, however. That attachment comes from the history of the brand — it was founded by C.C. Filson in the Pacific Northwest in 1897 as a place to outfit miners coming to the area for the Klondike gold rush — and its products, which are made by hand in Filson's own factory from quality materials.
Product is the key to our brand, said Egler. Filson's customers are willing to pay more for better quality products. It's common for the brand's coats to last customers 50 or more years. And these coats aren't just hanging in closets, taken out for special occasions. They frequently serve as uniforms for the miners, loggers and ranchers in the Pacific Northwest, where winters are frequently harsh.
Our products aren't for disposable fashion shoppers, Egler said. Their high price point presents a challenge for customer acquisition.
To deal with its acquisition problem, Filson has opened three brick-and-mortar stores in the Pacific Northwest, and has plans to expand its retail presence in the years ahead. What Filson won't do is deviate from its roots. Egler said the plan is for "controlled growth" while remaining true to the brand.