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Shinola Targets 35 Stores by 2017

Since Shinola Detroit launched in 2011 it’s been lauded for bringing jobs back to Motor City and slammed by critics for importing some parts, but next month the leather goods company will add an industry accolade to its roster.

On May 24 in New York City, the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) will present Shinola’s president, Jacques Panis, with the Retailer of the Year award at the 38th annual American Image Awards.

“The brand began with four individuals driven by the passion to make a watch in the United States. Today we are a team of more than 500 people and growing stronger every day, based in a city that never quits and a city that helped build this country,” Panis told Sourcing Journal in an e-mail. “The city of Detroit has provided Shinola with the platform to share an incredible story with the world. And just maybe our work will inspire others to follow in our footsteps.”

Known for its luxury bikes and watches, Shinola also offers an array of leather goods (think: tote bags, briefcases, wallets), journals and pet accessories, and recently announced plans to launch its first in-house jewelry line—a collaboration with Pamela Love—later this year. In addition to e-commerce, the brand also has 14 brick-and-mortar locations throughout the country, as well as one in London, and Panis said the goal is to reach 35 by 2017.

“Pricing is certainly an issue, but there is definitely a market segment of consumers who are willing to pay a higher price tag for locally-made high quality goods,” he continued. “Our customers appreciate the fact that Shinola is bringing manufacturing back stateside and appreciate how transparent we are about our manufacturing practices.”

To those who questioned the validity of Shinola’s “Built in Detroit” claim, Panis said, “We have never claimed to manufacture everything in the U.S. For watches to be considered ‘Made in the U.S.A.,’ virtually all parts would have to be manufactured in the U.S. and unfortunately the supply chain does not exist, at scale, in the U.S.A. today.”

He added, “Sourcing American-made components and finding employees with the skillset are some of the main challenges [facing the Made in U.S.A. movement today]. There are 2.5 million skilled or middle skill labor jobs in the U.S. but the gap is growing between those who are eligible to fill them.”