E-Tailer Opens ‘Destination’ Store

Nov 02, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

It says it right there on the Duluth Trading Company website. “If
you’re a Duluth Trading fan, when you visit your new store… You’ll feel like
you died and went to heaven!”

Well, aside from appealing to fans of the quirky catalog
and online retailer selling work gear and its Crack Spackle Longtail t-shirts
(goodbye awkward moments speaking to plumbers working under the sink), the
goal is to introduce the company to a wider range of potential customers.

Trading’s first store is located in Mount Horeb, WI, within driving distance
(100 miles) of five percent of its current customers. The 7,500 square-foot
store is in a building that date backs to 1882 and was the former home of the
Mount Horeb Hardware Co. In addition to its normal goods, the new store also
houses the Wally Keller Tool Museum, which has tools dating back to the Civil

“I really think it brings our brand to life,” Steve Schlect, owner
of Duluth Trading, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “The concept
is a destination store.”

While hardware had been Duluth Trading’s heritage,
the company has emphasized soft goods in recent years. Since 2001, according
to the Journal Sentinel report,
sales at the company went from 85 percent hardware to the same percentage in

The company has also seen growth in women’s clothing under the direction
of Stephanie Pugliese, who joined Duluth after leaving Lands’ End a couple
of years back.

While Duluth’s gear is designed with working people in mind,
the vast majority of its goods are bought by non-professionals looking for
higher quality merchandise. The company estimates that somewhere between 20
and 30 percent of its business goes to people working in construction and other

The 7,500 square-foot flagship store is the first, but is not going
to be the last if the company sees it can increase its customer base and turn
a profit.

Discussion Questions: Do you expect Duluth Trading Company to achieve success
opening its first brick and mortar outlet? Are there any cautions for Duluth
or other e-tailers looking to open stores?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

8 Comments on "E-Tailer Opens ‘Destination’ Store"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Dick Seesel
10 years 6 months ago

I read about Duluth Trading Company’s venture into “bricks and mortar” in the Milwaukee paper, and I think it make sense–in theory–to expand from e-commerce only to a physical footprint. The company has enough “following” and brand equity for this to make sense. I am puzzled by the choice of location, however; Mount Horeb is not a “destination” location by any means, compared to several other cities and towns in the region. (It’s halfway between Madison and Dodgeville, the home of Lands’ End.) It’s about 20 miles from Duluth’s headquarters (also near Madison) so it allows for hands-on observation of the operation, and perhaps Duluth Trading will do for Mount Horeb what L.L.Bean did for Freeport–but I would have opted for a little more population density to give the experiment a better chance to work.

Warren Thayer
10 years 6 months ago

They’ll thrive. Quality products with unique features you just can’t find anywhere else. If 5% of their trading base is within 100 miles, they’ve got a good built-in group of shoppers. They position themselves as a workingman’s L.L.Bean, with attitude. Return policy’s excellent but as I say, quality is there, so I’d suspect returns are relatively rare.

Bill Emerson
Bill Emerson
10 years 6 months ago

Opening a store to bring a catalog/internet brand to tangible life is always a lot of fun. With all the attention and resources this store will get from the HQ, it will no doubt also produce a good solid, if not profitable, result.

The obvious parallel is L.L Bean, the deservedly loved outdoor brand. They opened a truly fantastic location in Freeport, Maine that is a must-see for anyone traveling in that area. Based on its apparent success, there are now 15 stores.

It’s worth noting that several years passed between the opening of the flagship store and the opening of other locations. Running a 4-wall operation is (obviously) a whole different world than running a catalog operation. It can be a huge distraction to senior management. It’s smart to go slowly, particularly in our current environment where the internet is growing and 4-wall is shrinking.

Ryan Mathews
10 years 6 months ago

Controlled growth is good. A store–even an oddly located one–may be fine. Let’s hope they resist the temptation of rapid expansion.

Dave Wendland
10 years 6 months ago

This innovative company has a solid reputation and will succeed nicely with the new venture. I’m eager to see Mt. Horeb become a destination for Duluth Trading. Perhaps slow and steady growth to other communities with similar DNA will be a winning combination with their faithful followers.

Scott Wothe
Scott Wothe
10 years 6 months ago

I wish that Duluth Trading Co. would open up a store in Duluth! I can’t be the only person who’s visited Duluth looking for their store. I’ve noticed that they’ve stepped up advertising, including billboards here in Minnesota. Their hand-drawn illustrations and snappy copy are very alluring, and I would suspect a retail store will do well.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
10 years 6 months ago

If they stay true to their customers, offer products and services that resonate with their customers, and locate near their customers, they should be able to continue their success.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
10 years 6 months ago

I’m not a future retail sleuth
And know little about Duluth,
But I like the cut of its jeb
In making famous Mount Horeb.

The temptation will be quite great
To expand into every state
So this one caution I implore
May they be content with one store.


Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is Duluth Trading Company to succeed with its destination store?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...