Nov 15

Rtic, expanding beyond coolers, opens flagship store in Cypress

Rtic Outdoors has designed a flagship store that’s just begging to be Instagramed.

Customers are greeted by a 24-foot “R” inlaid with a polar bear, the company’s logo. A Ford F-150 truck, displaying coolers, is parked next to a ceramic grill and folding chairs. A fishing boat, golf cart and ATV are likewise positioned throughout the 10,000-square-foot Cypress store to showcase Rtic merchandise.

Social media, particularly Facebook where Rtic has more than 2.1 million likes, has been crucial for the Cypress company to promote its products and become a formidable competitor to other Texas cooler companies: Austin-based Yeti and Katy-based Igloo. The Rtic flagship store’s intricate displays are yet another opportunity to stimulate social media shares — especially on image-based Instagram, where the company’s presence isn’t quite as large, said Rtic CEO and co-founder John Jacobsen.

It seemed to work on his niece and her friends, who, Jacobsen said, ran around the store taking pictures.

“That’s exactly what I want to happen,” Jacobsen said. “Social media has been a powerful marketing tool for us.”

Rtic’s flagship store, 20510 Hempstead Road, suite 100, holds its grand opening celebration on Saturday, joining a list of other retailers that have learned they can no longer live exclusively online or in brick-and-mortar storefronts. Retailers such as Amazon and online prescription glasses and sunglasses seller Warby Parker have expanded into physical locations.

Rtic’s brick-and-mortar debut “makes perfect sense with everything we’re seeing in retail today,” said Jason Baker, co-founder of Baker Katz, a Houston retail real estate firm.

Matt Powell, sports industry analyst for the NPD Group, said a physical footprint could also boost the company’s name recognition in an industry with lagging sales. Cooler sales are down between 1 percent and 3 percent during the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year. Yeti opened its own flagship store in Austin last year.

“I think the early excitement about Yeti and Rtic kind of has played out at this point,” Powell said, adding that his statistics don’t include Rtic sales because those products aren’t sold at the retailers reporting data to the NPD Group.

Jacobsen said his company is bucking those trends. Rtics’ hard-sided cooler sales were up 5.7 percent as of Sept. 30, compared with the prior year, and soft-sided cooler sales were up 6.5 percent, he said. Still, his company is diversifying its product line, recently changing its name to Rtic Outdoors earlier this year from Rtic Coolers to reflect its broader product offerings, including beach bags, coffee mugs, backpacks and hydration packs.

The company will introduce tents and ceramic grills in 2019.

“How we keep ahead and keep growing is new products and expanding our footprint,” Jacobsen said.

The flagship store opened this week in a soft launch. Among the first visitors was Daryl Johnson who visited the store Tuesday.

“I’m blown away,” he said. “It’s pretty impressive.”

He purchased tumblers, food containers and water bottles as Christmas gifts for friends. Johnson, who works in the energy industry, owns myriad Rtic products, and he will pack several days’ worth of food into an Rtic cooler as he travels to different well sites across Texas and Louisiana.

“They filled a void for making very nice products at reasonable prices,” Johnson said. “The performance of everything I’ve used so far has been outstanding.”

If the flagship store is a success, Jacobsen said, then Rtic could open several more stores ahead of next summer. Rtic plans to open at least 20 U.S. stores, plus smaller stores in Mexico operated by a third party.

Rtic’s grand opening celebration will be Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The Houston Texans football team cheerleaders will be signing calendars from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.. The Astros 2017 World Series trophy will be on display between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. and live entertainment starts at 5 p.m. with performances by Jody Booth and Roger Creager.

The event is free. Profits from beer and wine sales will go to Camp Hope, which provides interim housing for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Some food proceeds will also go to Camp Hope, and Rtic will make a donation.

By Andrea Leinfelder
Houston Chronicle

Read the Original Article HERE