The Global Experience at Arc’Teryx | Megan Cheesbrough
Arc’teryx is a name that you cannot miss once you enter Canada. The iconic brand has been one of the most desirable and innovative outdoor retailers for the last 25 years. Being at the forefront of many of the industry’s latest technology, Arc’teryx believes constant change and adaptation is the future – continuously redeveloping their brand and stores to express this sentiment.
Megan Cheesbrough, Global Director, Retail and In-Store Excellence, has always been loyal to the brand and believed in its heritage. Growing up with Arc’teryx in Canada, her open-minded personality and professional experience fits perfectly with the outdoor retailer. Delving into the brand values and future concepts, Megan reveals all things Arc’teryx to MiND.
THE ARC’TERYX WAY | THE EVOLUTION OF THE STORE CONCEPT
The brand has been around for 25 years and has been quite mysterious to consumers over that time. We’re really just now starting to say more about ourselves, who we are and where we come from. There are countless innovations that are now reference standard in outdoors but really came from these buildings.
We’re working on a project over the next year, which is the redesign and evolution of our retail concept. Our store concept duration is roughly connected to the term of our leases, most being about 5 years. Then we look to refresh the aesthetic, reassess the experience, and evolve to bring in something new. We are re imagining retail for Arc’teryx: it will be more than just an iteration of what it looks like today. Connecting with people is at the root of it. As a brand, we build tools to enable and inspire. We believe the retail store is a tool for connection, service and inspiring people to get outside and explore the wild spaces we build products for.
“Each new store is our new favorite, because it really represents where we are at the moment.”
We’re not necessarily looking at what other people do and we don’t want to benchmark ourselves against what is happening in the industry. I feel as though we are already doing things really differently compared to our competitors. As an organization, we have this natural drive to improve and do things better, always in search of a better way. Sometimes it’s a small iteration and tweaks to what already exists, and sometimes it’s big innovations that we will bring to market.
Our strength is that we are a design and a manufacturing company that is rooted here in the coast mountains. Our people all spend time in the mountains and we’re super passionate about what we do. We build tools to enable and inspire. It’s not just about building a new jacket; it’s evolving the process of making that jacket, rebuilding a tool in order to make it that way, or perhaps working with a mill to create a new material. We have a really powerful R&D department here. We look at all aspects of the business.
ARC’TERYX THE BRAND | THE GLOBAL MARKET
By the end of this year, we will have almost 50 stores that we control around the world. That’s a mix of our own brand stores, 28, and some outlets stores- we’ve a mix of mono Arc’teryx outlet stores and some multi brand outlet stores.
For the Arc’teryx brand, our highest market is here in Canada. For the retail development, we are really focused on the US market and China. We have some of the highest brand awareness within the outdoors in China. We are a very global brand, which is quite unique coming from North America, to have the brand strength that we have equally in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. The goal is to continue to grow the business in a direct-to-consumer way so we can really manage the brand experience.
“We’re not looking at what other people do.”
MY JOURNEY TOWARDS ARCTERYX | WHERE I STARTED AND HOW I GOT HERE
Most people that work in retail say that they never expected to work in retail. It always just kind of happens. I did a post graduate degree in Eco and Adventure Tourism and I have always been a really outdoorsy person. I was born in Vancouver but I grew up in Ontario, Canada. There are a lot of lakes there, so lots of nature and camping, and guiding people in outdoor experiences. I ended up working in a retail store in between traveling. Working as a buyer in specialty outdoor retail was a great opportunity to get to know other brands in the industry and to work with like-minded people who are passionate about the outdoors.
I ended up going to The North Face. I got to see the outdoor business very differently and I was inspired by that corporate culture. From there I went to Nike – that was really my retail education. Nike is a very powerful brand and I got to work on some really big projects in Canada. The sheer volume of projects and work that you can do within a year with that organization is intense. I feel like I got this deep education in not just retail, retail marketing and brand experience, but also leadership and people development through my time there.
I have always loved Arc’teryx and as a buyer I bought the brand for the outdoor speciality store I worked at way back in the day. I had a connection with the brand: I was already a loyal consumer. Moving to Vancouver to work for the brand It just seemed like a really amazing opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. It’s been three and a half years now and I still love it.
PEOPLE VS STORES | WHAT ARC’TERYX DOES DIFFERENTLY
People are the reason to go to a store. You can buy anything online now, and people do, but the reality is 90% of shopping still happens in a store. People want to connect with a human being. A big area of focus for us is making sure our people are inspiring and they are the best brand and product advocates. They need to know our product inside and out. It’s about sharing who we are as a brand and where we come from. It’s also about getting people the right product for what activity it is they’re trying to do.
In several of our markets, we have roles in them called Community Marketing Managers. They are committed to connecting with the Arc’teryx community in the market, creating inspiring experiences and lifting the brand voice overall. Retail marketing is not just about driving traffic to our own stores but also about the brand voice in the markets we are in. We believe that a jacket sold in the market is a jacket sold; it doesn’t really matter where it was purchased from. Consumers are so complex now and the path to purchase is very blurry. They may research us on our own website but might buy the product from another website, wholesale account, brand store or outlet. We want to ensure that regardless of the touch-point, their interactions with the brand are consistent, inspiring and meaningful.
We definitely have the broadest range of product in our stores versus what many of our wholesale accounts isare carrying. We believe that next to product, the retail space is the number one physical expression of our brand to the consumer. And like product, it’s really important that we are highly considered in how we bring that experience to life.
FUNCTIONAL, MINIMAL AND BEAUTIFUL | THE PRODUCT VALUE
We have a really clear design ethos for our products: functional, minimal and beautiful. We want to embody that in everything we produce: whether that be an apparel tool or a pack tool, or our physical stores and spaces. We are focused on designing beautiful and functional experiences that really add value for the consumer, making it easier for them to do business with us, or learn something about our brand.
THE NEXT STEP | WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR ARC’TERYX
No one can predict what retail is going to look like in five years’ time; and anyone who says they can is lying. With the landscape changing so often and so quickly, there is the opportunity for a young creative person that is coming up to really re imagine or create something for themselves within that kind of environment. I think traditional rules will be present but there is going to be more of an opportunity to be creative, adaptive, and think of new ways to connect people with brands and experiences. As a result of the rapidly evolving landscape, I think pop-ups and short term stores are going to be more prevalent, as well as consumer events and experiences that incorporate retail. There are so many opportunities around that.
We have just opened a store in California, which is a very lifestyle driven market. It’s surrounded by some unique boutique shops and sneaker shops; very cool LA shopping area. It’s a very up and coming zone and an art district. Our store experience is different than anything else we have had in the past.
It still feels like Arc’teryx but it fits the market better. It’s a boutique style. It isn’t a high volume traffic location but we wanted to create a space where people felt like they could come in and hang out. There is more art and photography infused into the space- something that is very important to us.
“No one can predict what retail is going to look like in five years’ time; anyone who says they can is lying.”