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With its first store in Milan, Herschel aims at increasing its exposure to the Italian market

by Marta Casadei

“We finally opened our first store in Italy, in Milan. It was the right time to enter this market, which gives us much satisfaction.” Jamie Cormack is, along with his brother Lyndon, the founder and head of Herschel Supply, a Canadian brand whose basic-retro esthetics have revolutionized the adult and children's backpack segment and is preparing to do the same for luggage.

Herschel was founded in 2009 and is now present in 72 countries around the world.

“We started out with uni-sex backpacks because we couldn’t find any we really liked,” said Cormack. “Today they still represent our core business with 45% of revenue and our “Little America” remains at the top of the list of bestsellers. But we also make suitcases, hats, wallets. The fil rouge is a mix of design, research and functionality.”

The privately-held company, with 160 employees in Vancouver, saw global sales rise 35% in 2015 with nearly 6 million pieces sold.

“In 2016 we anticipate a revenue increase of about 30%,” the founder said. “Our key markets are the U.S. and Canada but we are growing in Europe, Japan and China, where we have just started operation. Growth in Italy is above the average: the number of pieces sold between 2014 and 2016 nearly doubled, going from 72,000 to 142,000, and revenue is expected to grow 35% in 2016.”

Retail is a major new frontier for the Canadian company: Hershel has 40 freestanding and flagship stores and is looking to expand that. By the end of 2016 it will open in Mexico City and Dubai, while in 2017 a large store will open in Vancouver.

“We are saying ‘no’ to many opportunities, but we’re interested in high-level distribution in the right locations. And as a company we want to remain independent,” says Cormack.

For its debut in Italy, where its brand is distributed by Blue Distribution, the Canadian company chose Corso di Porto Ticinese in Milan.

“For now it will be the only store,” said Cormack.

The location, a spacious 130 square meters, sells the brand’s six collections: Classic; Studio, with a strong design component; Bad Hills Workshop, the high-end line; Travel; Kids and Headwear.