Despite some downsizing in its regional distribution, Patagonia managed robust double-digit growth in its European business in 2017. It regional sales have more than doubled in the last three years to reach nearly €100 million, and 2018 has started off with a favorable trend.
Patagonia achieved some of the strongest upticks in the British and German markets, which had been identified as priorities for investment as part of the strategic plan adopted for Europe three years ago. The third priority market under this plan is Italy, where Patagonia has been growing more steadily in the last few years.
But at the same time, Patagonia reported strong upticks in some Nordic countries, where it implemented some distribution changes in the last two years. The brand switched to a Norwegian partnership with Outdoor AS, a company that previously built up The North Face in the country. Just a few months ago it teamed up with OAC in Finland, the distribution partner for Black Diamond and La Sportiva, among others.
Patagonia's sales in the Benelux countries were supported by the group's European head office in Amsterdam. The downsizing mostly related to the Middle East, which is covered by the company's European head office in Amsterdam.
The sales rise came after Patagonia invested in its European teams, to support tighter relationships with its key retail partners. The outdoor brand has reinforced resources in the offices it runs in five countries, in the three priority markets as well as France and Switzerland. Each of them now has staff for sales, marketing and environmental issues, as well dealer services, which wasn't previously the case.
These investments have been paired with upgrades in infrastructure. Patagonia's British office moved from central London to a much cheaper and larger office in Manchester. The former European head office in Annecy was moved to a smaller, creative space in the same city. Patagonia is preparing to upgrade its office in Munich, which should be ready later this year.
The brand has invested in half a dozen more showrooms in Europe in the last three years, to obtain more coverage into regional markets. This has entailed meaningful investment in terms of space and sample sets.
While helping to work more closely with retail partners, these upgraded offices and showrooms support Patagonia's community-building efforts. That also applies for the European head office, where Patagonia took a second floor last year and opened the office for public-facing events. The brand has appeared less hurried to open its own stores in Europe so far, targeting a rate of about two openings per year.
Ryan Gellert, who became managing director for Patagonia in Europe in 2014, said that the brand's European business has been profitable and generating increased profit for each of the last three years. But he adds that Patagonia's resonance in terms of community and environmental impact is another crucial benchmark for the brand. The latest endeavors include the first Worn Wear Tour organized in the winter, and the first one to include snow-focused products with Gore-Tex, both in North America and in Europe.
The brand has continued to take action on the topic of microfibers through support of academic research. Funding was provided to Langbrett, the German company behind the Guppyfriend, a bag that is meant to contain garments during washing and to capture microfibers released in the process – to prevent their release into the environment. Patagonia provided financial support for the Guppyfriend to be brought to market, and sold it a zero profit in its stores and online. Other contributions went from 1% for the Planet, to organizations such as the Plastic Soup Foundation in Amsterdam.