Carhartt dishes on its innovation, store strategies

Carhartt’s piloting a customizable workwear program available to its 600 loyalty members.
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· 4 min read

Carhartt is lacing up its boots.

The 133-year-old workwear brand is scaling up operations with plans to meet its core customers where they are with plans to open new storefronts and allow for more customization within its product selection.

As Alex Guerrero, its SVP and general manager of global product, explained to Retail Brew, the Carhartt customer is typically a blue-collar worker who needs a lot more bells and whistles to get the most out of their purchases.

For example, a left-handed carpenter using the offering now has the option to more easily access tools kept on their pants by customizing them with hammer loops; loyalty members making an online purchase can tailor clothes to a more snug fit, as well as add extra pockets or kick panels.

Innovation is where Carhartt sees much of its future, which is why the company is in the midst of a pilot program for customizable clothing that allows its 600 loyalty members to pick and choose extra features for a handful of products.

Working it out

Guerrero, the former VP and general manager of Jockey’s US men’s business, likened Carhartt’s program to “Nike by You,” which allows sneakerheads to design their own custom shoes through Nike’s website.

“What we’re finding is that really, from a customization standpoint, even just to be able to get your exact waist and your exact length…people have been really extremely receptive to that,” he said. “As simple as that can [be, it can] actually benefit people greatly in regards to being able to customize the fit of their work pants.”

Workwear is a category that has been missing the data-driven level of detail when it comes to offering customizable apparel, Guerrero said. From the data Carhartt has gathered thus far, customization on bottoms has proven to be most popular.

The program, which kicked off toward the end of June, is in partnership with tech company DXM, which provides the platform where shoppers can customize their clothing through Carhartt’s website. The offering is available for the short-sleeve pocket shirt, relaxed-fit work pants, and the relaxed-fit jean, which start at $19.99, $39.99, and $29.99, respectively.

Guerrero said the program is currently only a proof of concept, but if demand among loyalty members is high enough, Carhartt will consider broadening it to its entire customer base, including physical stores and wholesale partners.

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Carhart will measure success by analyzing how many customers are completing the experience all the way through—and not just clicking away.

Let’s get physical

In April, the company opened its 37th brick-and-mortar store in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, which Mark Kastner, director of D2C store operation and experience, said was a market highly in demand for a storefront based on e-commerce sales data.

Kastner said Carhartt wants to now expand its footprint to Dallas, Texas, for similar reasons. He explained that consumers, now more than ever, are in search of “low-friction points,” whether it’s BOPIS, through IRL appointments, getting a product shipped from another store, or buying it online.

Carhartt’s not only trying to get ahead in the tech and innovation space, but also in its stores as well—and physical brick-and-mortar stores are needed to support that connected commerce ecosystem.

“Nashville had a great real estate opportunity for us…which gave us an opportunity to open a store in a market that has a strong consumer base, but also in a location that can touch on consumers from all over the country,” Kastner said. Earlier in the interview, he explained, “You take all these ingredients and throw it in the pot, and that’s just part of the recipe of finding the next great location for us.”

In Dallas, Kastner said Carhartt’s wholesale partners, which include Tractor Supply Co. and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have a large presence, but that’s not necessarily the case in other markets. When opening a new retail storefront, like in Nashville, for example, Carhartt also tries to ensure it won’t take away business from its wholesale partners.

“Our wholesale accounts are not competition to us. Our wholesale accounts are partners to us,” Kastner said. “We don’t want to go into a market and negatively impact or cannibalize that business away from them. That doesn’t help any of us.”

+1: Competition in the workwear space might be heating up for Carhartt. DTC brand Brunt, which raised $20 million in funding earlier this year, recently brought on former Under Armour executive Kevin Eskridge as president to spearhead the company’s product development and global retail expansion.

“We look different, speak different, and act very differently than the heritage workwear brands,” Brunt’s founder and CEO Eric Girouard told WWD.—KM

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