Woolrich Inc. to merge with European partner

Founding family takes minority ownership, but more 'Made in America' investment planned

WOOLRICH – One of America’s oldest, continuously owned private companies, Woolrich Inc., is merging with its European partner.

Woolrich International has been formed by the merger of Woolrich Inc., the Woolrich, Pa.-based outdoor fashion company founded in 1830 by John Rich, and Woolrich Europe, the companies have announced.

The move means that, after seven generations of ownership and management by the Rich family, the new company will be headquartered in London, with the Rich family having a minority ownership in the new business.

It also comes about two years after the two companies formed a strategic partnership “meant to give the business longevity.”

Financial details were not disclosed of the operation steered by the Rich family and WP Lavori in Corso, the Bologna, Italy-based company that controls Woolrich Europe and produces and distributes the Woolrich collections across Europe and Asia under license, the European company said in a prepared statement.

“WP Lavori in Corso is to be the majority shareholder of Woolrich International, while the Rich family will maintain a minority stake. Woolrich International is expected to close 2016 with revenues of 170 million euros, or $180 million at current exchange,” the announcement said. “Its headquarters will be based in London, while operating offices are to be located in New York, Woolrich, Pa., Bologna, and Milan.

The company has a total of 300 employees.

“Woolrich International anticipates launching an initial public offering within five years,” the firm said.

WP Lavori in Corso and Woolrich Europe president and chief executive officer Cristina Calori will be named president of Woolrich International.

Paolo Corinaldesi is to be its CEO.

Woolrich Europe creative director Andrea Cane will be appointed global creative director of the new company and hold responsibility for the design and brand development of Woolrich International’s lines.

Nicholas Brayton, a member of the seventh generation of the Rich family, is to manage the companyás North American business.

“We are focused on reinforcing our successful business model to promote the development of the brand all around the world,” said Calori, who highlighted Woolrich and WP Labori’s 32 years of collaboration.

“This agreement represents a new important chapter in the growing path of our iconic American brand, which is on the market since almost two centuries,” Brayton said. “The new strategy contributes to a further acceleration of our international expansion.”

“Woolrich International will develop a five-year strategy, which is expected to increase the company’s revenues to 266 million euros, or $282 million, by the end of 2020, representing an average annual growth of 12 percent over the next four years. In that time, the total employee count is expected to reach 500.

“According to Cane, Woolrich International, which currently operates 24 stores, plans to open 36 doors by 2020 backed by an investment of 45 million euros, or $48 million. “Most of them will be in Europe, but we also expect to open eight boutiques across the United States and Canada,” he said, revealing the locations in North America are to be New York, San Francisco, Aspen, Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. “In Europe, we will focus on the major fashion cities, such as Milan, London and Paris.”

Cane also explained that Woolrich International will first focus on the international development of the company’s main brand Woolrich John Rich & Bros., which is popular especially in Europe for its iconic Arctic Parka. The label, which is currently sold in 45 countries, accounts for more than 70 percent of Woolrich International’s business.

“With Italy, Germany and Benelux as its main markets, Woolrich John Rich & Bros. is expected to grow especially across the United States, which currently accounts for 25 percent of the brand’s business; Canada; the U.K., and France. According to Cane, the expansion of the label in those markets, particularly in U.S., will be managed through the creation of partnerships with specialized local distributors.

“We also plan to grow in Asia, where we have a distributor in Japan and an office in Korea,” Cane said. “China is a market we aim to enter soon with a dedicate branch company.”

âWoolrich International’s strategic plan includes, as well, the relaunch of its Woolrich Outdoor line, which is positioned in the premium segment of the outdoor market. For the United States, the key market for this label, Woolrich International will develop a new brand concept that brings the outdoor offering into the urban lifestyle market. It is to be presented to independent retailers and multibrand chains.

“Woolrich’s historic textile factory in Woolrich will be reinforced. “Along with our signature blankets, we will develop a bigger range of products crafted from our fabric,” said Canè, explaining that the mill will continue its production for other firms, especially those labels focused on a Made in America production. “We are going to sign a collaboration agreement with a textile school in Pennsylvania, which will enable us to bring fresh creativity to our factory.”

Deloitte Financial Advisory and Financo Securities LLC served as financial advisors for Woolrich Europe and Woolrich Inc., respectively.ã

It was in June 2014 when WP Lavori, the Italian company that holds the license to design, produce and distribute Woolrich in markets including Europe and Japan, signed a long-term agreement with the Woolrich outdoor apparel and wool specialized brand.

“This agreement was meant to give the business longevity while starting a long-term relationship similar to a merging between the business of two families, the Rich family, still owning the brand since its foundation in 1830, and the Calori family that founded WP Lavori In Corso in 1982,” Cane said at the time.

The agreement involved Cristina Calori, owner of WP Lavori In Corso, and Joshua W. Rich, executive vice president of Woolrich, and representative of the Rich family’s 8th generation, after a year and a half of pre-agreements.

That partnership already had WP Lavori managing the European, Japanese and Korean markets for Woolrich, while both partners coordinated activities in China, Sportswear International reported at the time.

“The two families have founded a committee that will be joined by both parts and will handle all strategies for product, distribution, retail, logistics, etc. “We are now thinking as if we are part of the same company,” Joshua W. Rich said in that report, “and will be acting now pursuing common goals. For instance, we want to re-launch our woolen fabric manufacturing in Pennsylvania, which is one of the few historical operating mills left in the U.S.”

It was unclear what impact the new merger will have on the workforce in Woolrich and operation of its outlet store in the village.