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Marko Grote-Westrick | The Sustainable Future of Store Design at Jack Wolfskin

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From his first experiences in Street One and Puma, to taking up the role of Head of Visual Merchandising and Store Design at Jack Wolfskin – one of the German leading providers of functional outdoor clothing, footwear and equipment – Marko Grote-Westrick talked to MiND about the brand’s commitment to sustainability both in their collections and store design.

Jack Wolfskin store Bertrange/ Luxembourg.

How would you describe your role at Jack Wolfskin?

From conception and strategic development of Visual Merchandising guidelines and standards for all store types to managing and planning new store openings, I think my role is an interesting combination. Knowing how to present the merchandise, I can influence the look and feel of the store. I have a very close relationship with our marketing department as well as our retail buying team as far as the creation of the store’s capsules and modules are concerned. When I am planning a store, I tell them which is the kind of merchandise they can carry in that space.

Jack Wolfskin Wiesbaden.

Can you walk us through your background and how you got at Jack Wolfskin?

I was influenced by my father’s creativity. He was a window dresser, a sign and poster painter, and he run his own business. I was always able to join if I wanted, so I have had an early insight of how the job looked like. I have always been interested in art and painting. When it became more the case, I started an internship at my father’s, and I realized that it was something I wanted to do in the future.

Then I did my apprenticeship in a department store, learning the job from the bottom. At that time, they had the chance to set up their own windows and displays, I was hand-crafting a lot boasting my creativity. I have always wanted to cover the creative side and not just the implementation side of the concept.

Puma store in Paris.

After some time, I started to work at Street One as visual merchandising manager. They had a new clothes collection each month, a huge turn over, and it was selling very well, quick, and fast. It was my entry in fast fashion. After 6 years I moved to Tom Tailor and then to Puma where I became the Global Head of Visual Merchandising and I had to take care of 5 regions worldwide. That, I would say, it was the time of my life. While working there I have seen a lot, travelled a lot. It was very exciting to work for a brand like Puma. At that time, they opened a lot of stores all over the world and wanted to be the most desirable sports lifestyle brand.

When they moved the retail office to Switzerland, I was working there but my family was in Germany, so I was always flying in and out and I decided it was time to change. Ten years ago, I was offered a position at Jack Wolfskin. Coming from the fashion industry, at the beginning I wasn’t very enthusiastic about working with outdoor products. Then, with the pandemic, people started going out and needed the right gears. That’s why it’s a good choice, for now. It is also a company I can image to work longer for because it’s not very big. I wouldn’t say it is family driven but I have a very good relationship with my colleagues, and this make the working life more comfortable.

Jack Wolfskin store Bertrange/ Luxembourg.

Last year was the 40th anniversary of Jack Wolfskin. How was the evolution of its iconic product collections?

The baptism of the outdoor brand took place in the middle of the rough wilderness around a campfire. To this day, nature, functionality, and a spirit of adventure characterize the brand’s DNA. For the anniversary, we took the iconic styles, redesigned them, and reintroduced them to the public. Those iconic styles have been part of the entire 40th anniversary campaign that was very much connected to innovation as well as weather protection and adventure.

"Sustainability should be the language of store design".

What is the brand’s hallmark that is never missing in your concepts?

Well, I would say the paw, which is the iconic hallmark which first appeared on a product in 1983. Especially in our core market like Germany, Austria, and Switzerland we do have a brand recognition which is very high, more than 90%. It is known as much as Apple and Coca Cola. The paw is Jack Wolfskin. This is something that we will never drop from the shop floor at all.

Jack Wolfskin store in Utrecht.

Which is one of your best concepts?

I’ve done quite a few nice projects, but the project of my life would be the upcoming Frankfurt flagship store which we are going to launch this year. We’re also having a branch reset right now and it is very much connected to it. We’re going to have a modern design with ALU fixtures to display the products; we’re looking into lots of sustainable materials. Sustainability is part of our DNA. We’re looking into certified wooden materials, local productions. I’ve developed the greenest mannequin you can have on the market. The upper body is made of papier-mâché, and the lower body is made of recycled plastic. They are smart, they have magnetic fittings and in combination to that we’ve introduced grass hangers made of grass and recycled plastic. All the graphics we’re using in the store are fabrics made from recycled ocean plastic.

Jack Wolfskin Tech Lab in Berlin.

We do have a small capsule in place where t-shirts are made of plastic ocean. I’m really looking into this as I don’t want to green wash something. It’s exactly the same thing with mannequins. You can also have mannequins which are completely made out of recycled plastic, and they are still looking like mannequins. But the one made by papier-mâché look on the very first view like they are sustainable. Also, the hangers on the reverse side are made of grass and for the production we saved around 65% of CO2.

We are going to communicate all these aspects. To complete the story telling, to protect the environment, you have to do something, but it cannot be only your products sustainable, but also the brand, the shop floor. That’s the perfect combination. The store is opening in June.

Jack Wolfskin store in Utrecht.

The same commitment to sustainability was applied to the design of our first store in Utrecht, The Netherlands, opened on May 6th. It is a 170 m² space featuring weather protection and biking collections where in-store graphics are made with TexBlue® certified fibres produced from plastic waste, and mannequins are made from paper-mâché and recycled plastic. The flexible store design will change seasonally with new product and technology introductions.

"Jack Wolfskin is one of the most sustainable outdoor brands".

Jack Wolfskin Tech Lab Pop-up Store. Photo by Saskia Uppenkamp

How would you describe the retail design industry today? How did Jack Wolfskin decide to develop new concepts despite the pandemic?

Talking about the Dusseldorf store -the first we did-, we planned it before the pandemic came up and we opened it during the pandemic. This has influenced the entire planning process because after we opened the store we went in lockdown. We couldn’t plan the design as usual, so we planned it from scratch and brought it directly to life without doing any mockups. That was challenging. We decided to go for ALU’s TondoQuadro and Acrobat display systems -something I was very familiar with- and then we started to do further developments adding new components to create our own concepts.

We at MiND really appreciated the opportunity to get to know the creative mind behind Jack Wolfskin’s store design and visual merchandising and we wish Marko good luck with his new projects!

Interview by: Lisa Zanon