Outdoor gear brand Stanley is adding new retail partners after its best-ever sales year
After a year of explosive sales growth, outdoor drinkwear and cookware company Stanley is looking to expand its presence in retail stores.
Stanley products are available at over 1,000 retail partners in the U.S., ranging from Dick’s Sporting Goods to Urban Outfitters. As categories like outdoor goods and insulated water bottles grew last year, Stanley in turn had its best-ever sales year in 2021 over its 109-year history, according to global president Terence Reilly. Indeed, direct-to-consumer and e-commerce sales grew nearly 350% and 150%, respectively, and global business “doubled.”
In turn, Stanley has ramped up its retailer partnerships, entering new retailers like Outdoor Voices for the first time last year and increasing shelf space at preexisting partners like REI. The goal isn’t to target one set of consumers or retailers, but to instead put “the Stanley bear everywhere,” explained Reilly, referring to the company’s logo that features a winged bear.
Stanley has hundreds of products in drinkware, food storage, coolers and camp cookware at a wide variety of price points. Within the drinkware category alone, for example, the brand offers a $15 travel mug and a $100 titanium mug. Its “Adventure Quencher Travel Tumbler,” in particular, has helped its hydration category grow 215% year-over-year.
Reilly said that when looking for wholesale partnerships, Stanley looks for retailers who are driving sales online and off and who can create consistent Stanley branding opportunities across different channels.
The types of retailers Stanley works with vary from regional chains to national conglomerates. A shopper in Colorado Springs, for example, could shop in person at a local outdoors store Mountain Chalet or in western apparel retail chain Boot Barn. Online, they could order from upscale cookware company Williams-Sonoma or Gen-Z apparel staple Urban Outfitters.
Stanley takes advantage of its hundreds of SKUs when deciding which products to give what retailer. While Urban Outfitters stocks Stanley’s $30 insulated tumbler in bright colors, for example, Williams-Sonoma sells Stanley’s professional camp cookware line for $140 in a neutral silver. “The assortment that you would see at REI, for example, is different than what we deliver to the Bass Pro Shop consumer,” said Reilly.
Reilly earlier told Modern Retail that Stanley’s sales success was partly due to an influx of a new “younger, female audience.” Last year, Stanley was developing new colorways and products to speak to that audience. Now Stanley is increasingly interested in finding new retailers to work with who cater to those shoppers.
One such retailer is Outdoor Voices. In the past, Outdoor Voices only sold its own brand of leggings and athletic clothing, primarily geared towards Gen Z and millennial women. However, recently, the brand has begun selling limited SKUs of other brands’ products like a Stanley Thermos or Wild One dog harness.
A new retail partnership strategy
It’s becoming a more standard strategy for buzzy DTC brands to sell a limited selection of products from other trending brands — like Stanley — often in categories they haven’t sold in before.
Outdoor Voices sells products from nearly 10 other brands beyond Stanley including Recess, Epperson, Merrell and Salt and Stone. Glasses brand Warby Parker sells a limited selection of books from what it describes as “small publishers with a strong editorial vision.” Apparel brand Madewell now has a dedicated section on its site to “labels we love” beyond the Madewell brand.
Rebekah Kondrat, founder and managing partner of DTC retail consultancy Kondrat Retail and former Outdoor Voices employee, said the strategy helps build single category startups into “lifestyle brands.” Outdoor Voices, for example, is thus signaling that it isn’t just a brand selling leggings, but instead a purveyor of an outdoors, active lifestyle.
“These brands think that you can’t be a lifestyle brand and only really sell into one specific niche category,” said Kondrat. “Onboarding these third party brands… raises brand awareness and boosts signals across the board.”
For Stanley, meanwhile, these smaller footprint activations help the brand target niche audiences. Stanley doesn’t need Outdoor Voices for scale: Stanley has multiple, multinational, 1,000-plus store deals with retailers like Dick’s or REI. Outdoor Voices, in contrast, has only 12 stores and around 380,000 site visits, according to SimilarWeb.
However, Outdoor Voices offers a more niche audience — city dwelling, young women with outdoor interests — and a clearer identity than some bigger retailer partners.
“You partner with an Outdoor Voices because of the it-factor… you want to be front and center and seen as kind of a cool-associated brand,” said Kondrat. “I think what really is appealing about selling at Outdoor Voices is really that it’s a mission-driven company, it’s not so big.”
Reilly explained that as Stanley continues to grow sales it will also continue to expand retailer partnerships, particularly those that appeal to a younger, female audience.
“As we emerge from Covid, I think more and more consumers are going to be out shopping, just to shake the cobwebs off of [being in] lockdowns for so long,” said Reilly. “I think being in the places where she is shopping is a really important moment for the Stanley brand. And that’s why you’ll see a lot of that in  and beyond.”