After Warby Parker: Askov Finlayson Plots Brand Expansion
If Eric Dayton is crying about Warby Parker’s upcoming departure from Askov Finlayson, he must be hiding the tears behind his limited-edition shades.
Dayton is turning the eyewear brand’s move to its own North Loop space into an opportunity to update his Askov Finlayson store, announce a wholesaling initiative for the apparel line, and create community experiences that emphasize the brand’s commitment to the outdoors—even when it isn’t cold.
Warby Parker’s final day at Askov Finlayson will be July 29. After that, Askov Finlayson will close for a remodel that is expected to take a couple of weeks. But the company best known for its North gear and its mission to “Keep the North Cold” by supporting the fight against climate change might be more visible around town while the store is closed. A run, logrolling, and a canoe excursion are among the free public events Askov Finlayson is planning in the coming weeks.
“It’s a fun excuse to get out and bring the brand to the community,” Dayton says. There could be some North gear for sale at the events, but revenue won’t be the driver. “You can bring a brand to life through activations.”
The power of community events hit home for Dayton during Askov Finlayson’s pre-Super Bowl collaboration with Target, which kicked off with a snow tubing party that drew thousands to Theodore Wirth Park.
Next up: taking Askov Finlayson beyond the north. With the recent hire of former Under Armour designer Christopher Windham, Askov Finlayson is ready to offer its upscale active men’s apparel and accessories collection through other retailers. The brand launched this week on Huckberry.com; the hip, outdoors inspired online shop for the Instagram generation is now its exclusive online partner.
Askov Finlayson apparel is likely headed to specialty stores as well. Another new hire, Devin O’Brien—founder of cycling apparel brand Search and State—has been charged with building out Askov Finlayson’s wholesale and retail distribution network. But don’t expect to see the Explorer pant at every mall. “We’re choosing quality over quantity,” Dayton says.
Askov Finlayson opened its doors to Warby Parker in 2015—a major coup for the small shop. The $1.2 billion Warby Parker disrupted the eyewear business with its $95 prescription frames and direct-to-consumer business model. Warby’s founders are friends with Dayton, and the in-store showroom was a way to test the market, with the goal of eventually opening a stand-alone store. Warby Parker proved an instant hit in the Twin Cities—drawing a steady stream of traffic to the back corner of Askov Finlayson.
In need of more room, Warby Parker’s new location is already under construction just a few blocks away, near Bonobos on Washington Avenue. The new store will open later this year.
Once the glasses are gone, Dayton says his team will reconfigure Askov Finlayson’s entire space—which is smaller than its national reputation might suggest—at 1,800 square feet. The store will reopen with some of Windham’s new clothing designs on the floor, and the promise of more to come—including Askov Finlayson outerwear. “The big focus when we reopen is leading with our own product,” Dayton says. Askov Finlayson will continue to sell other brands, but with diminishing attention. “With Warby Parker moving out, it completes our transition to becoming the flagship location for our clothing company.”