The Kontoor-owned denim brand unveiled its first standalone Wrangler store in China, following through on the expansion plans it set out earlier this year. Located in the retail-heavy Nanjing Deji Plaza, the store marks an important step forward for the brand.
“We have spent the last year building awareness and demand for the Wrangler brand in China through curated product offerings and innovative digital experiences,” said John Gearing, vice president, Kontoor Brands, Asia. “The Nanjing store unveils a new retail store concept that we have designed to excite and engage China’s youth and young at heart. In the coming months, you can expect to see additional Wrangler stores in top retail destinations as we continue to unleash Wrangler’s heritage to a new audience.”
The store offers customers an engaging retail experience, with digital screens featuring Wrangler campaigns on loop, neon light displays and stations with detailed information on key products. The venture mirrors boundary-pushing retail concepts like Levi’s NextGen stores that merge the omnichannel experience.
One of the first collections to be featured in the store is Wrangler’s latest collaboration with Chinese apparel brand Sankuanz, a streetwear-inspired label founded by designer Shanguan Zhe in 2008. The collection centers on Wrangler’s Western heritage—a theme from which Sankuanz designers culled inspiration. They were especially taken with photographer Richard Avedon’s black-and-white depiction of the American cowboy in his 1985 book “In the American West.”
To play on the heritage, designers added tassels, frays and other lived-in elements to Wrangler’s classic 124MJ denim jackets and 11MWZ straight-leg jeans. Denim features a special “snowflake” wash to mimic the look of an authentic cowboy’s natural wear and tear pattern. Available at the Wrangler Nanjing Deji Plaza store and at its official online store on Tmall, a leading online retailer in China, the collection solidifies the merging of East and West.
“We challenge younger generation to always show their courage, their truthfulness and vitality,” said Kristy Kilmartin, vice president, APAC marketing, Kontoor Brands. “We want them to join Wrangler in all kinds of new life adventures.”
Since becoming an independent, publicly traded company in 2019, Kontoor has identified China as a key area of focus for its international expansion strategy. While sister brand Lee has been in the region for 25 years, Wrangler first debuted in China in December 2020 through Tmall. That same quarter, the Wrangler and Lee businesses generated an 11 percent increase in revenue in China. In its Q3 2021 earnings call in November, the company reported a combined 22 percent increase in the market for both Wrangler and Lee, and projected more to come, as it devises more demand creation strategies for the future.
Other brands have identified China as a top market for growth in recent years. In October, Scotch & Soda opened its first official digital store on Tmall and joined popular Chinese social media platforms including Weibo, Little Red Book, WeChat and Douyin. Though it has only directly operated in China since July, Scotch & Soda has plans to stand up brick-and-mortar stores in the country’s key cities. Similarly, in April, Guess announced it would be expanding its global footprint in the region, as well as Russia, Poland and Germany.