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Moose Knuckles CEO: “Don’t cut back on marketing that connects you to consumers”

By FashionUnited

5 May 2020

With the spread of Covid-19, the world came to an abrupt halt, as countries abided by lockdown measures, stores closed and fashion events were cancelled or postponed. Not only did this take its toll on the fashion industry, but consumer shopping behavior was also affected and people started favoring loungewear, as the occasion to dress up became nonexistent.

While countries like Austria and Germany have begun inching towards normalcy by allowing certain retailers to reopen, this is only the case for one Canadian province. All retail businesses in Manitoba were able to reopen on May 4, as long as they stick to guidelines established by the government and the Retail Council of Canada, such as limiting occupancy to 50 percent. The other provinces are less fortunate, however, and many companies must continue to rely solely on e-commerce sales. Meanwhile, several states in the US are allowing retailers to reopen as long as they follow social-distancing measures and do not exceed store capacity rules.

Moose Knuckles is one Canadian outerwear brand that is currently forced to rely on its online store. Known for its warm parkas and down coats, the family behind the company founded Moose Knuckles Canada in 2009 and its products are now carried by luxury retailers in more than 25 countries. In addition to being a leader in its Canadian home market, the brand is active in all major markets worldwide and especially successful in Korea, China, the UK and Italy. Though outerwear lies at its core, the company, rather than applying an outdoor or performance approach, sees itself as a fashion brand. The animal products used in the manufacturing process of Moose Knuckles’ products, such as fur strips and down, are SAGA and RDS certified.

The end of 2019 saw the brand opening its first flagship store on New York City’s Greene Street. It offers consumers an immersive retail experience by introducing the brand’s aesthetic, which includes grain wood tiles, reclaimed cast-iron columns and art installations, such as a two-story Rube Goldberg-inspired kinetic fixture.

Photo: Moose Knuckles NYC flagship store

As Noah Stern, co-chief executive officer of Moose Knuckles told WWD in an interview on the flagship store opening, which was published on November 7 of last year, he estimated the brand’s annual global retail volume between 350 million and 450 million dollars. Additionally, the brand forecasted a worldwide growth rate of 60 to 70 percent per year for the last five years, which makes it a global player in luxury outerwear.

The uncertain situation caused by Covid-19 has inevitably put this annual growth at risk. FashionUnited was interested in how the pandemic is affecting a brand whose main focus are coats and parkas, rather than loungewear. Ayal Twik, Co-CEO of Moose Knuckles, spoke about the reality of store closings, crisis management for retailers and his forecasts for the future.

What steps did you take to deal with the outbreak of the pandemic?

Our ‘director of giving a f---,’ Scott McDougall, has been solely focused on keeping our worldwide tribe abreast of all developments from a personal and health point of view. For every employee, worldwide, who we have been forced to furlough, we are topping up whatever financial assistance the governments are giving, to make sure they each have enough to see them through this s--- show. Lastly, as this concerns our global team, each and every one of us have banded together to take meaningful cuts in compensation in order to see the whole moose tribe through these tough times.

How did you not lose control of your business during lockdown and what should entrepreneurs do in your opinion?

Do your best not to cut back on marketing that connects you to the customer. During tough times, consumers are looking for ways to change their buying habits, so this can be an opportunity to shine above competition if your voice stands apart from the rest. Be nimble. Protecting cash flow is important during a time like this but things are shifting every day. Be reactive to the current climate but continue to keep projects in your back pocket so you can pivot if it’s the right time.

Are your stores closed? How do you feel about this situation?

Our stores globally are closed in order to protect our teams but e-commerce has been a priority of ours. Although stores closing affects revenue resulting in potential loss, it is more important to follow governmental protocol to ensure the health and success of our community – globally. Our shift in strategy, the decisions we make now, will better help us come out on top and place us in a position to win once we’re able to reopen stores.

What forecasts and expectations do you have for the fashion industry once you can reopen stores?

As long as we continue to put our customers, employees and our community first, especially during this highly sensitive time, we will be set up for continued success. Do what you can to support your communities, your consumers and staff. Companies that emerge from this can thank the people. Companies that work the hardest and execute the best ideas will be successful. We’ll emerge stronger than ever imagined. We expect to open more brick and mortar stores, deliver unique pop-up experiences around the globe when it is safe to do so and continue to drive brand awareness, engagement and sales.

Ayal Twik, Co-CEO of Moose Knuckles was interviewed by FashionUnited editor, Natalia Popova. This story was edited by Anna Zwettler.

Photo Credit: Moose Knuckles Canada