Vancouver-based multi-discipline performance training and fitness brand RYU has substantial growth plans, with a goal of becoming the top brand of its kind in the world. Its first flagship is scheduled to open this fall, and the company has plans for more free-standing locations as well as shop-in-stores. It also plans to see substantial wholesale growth worldwide. We spoke with the company's President and CEO, Marcello Leone, to learn more.
Founded in Portland, Oregon, RYU or 'Respect Your Universe' has origins in the performance and philosophy of martial arts. It is an athletic tech-style apparel brand engineered for the fitness, training and performance of the multi-discipline athlete. In 2011, the son of the founders of Vancouver-based luxury retailer Leone, Marcello Leone, saw potential, and stepped in as an investor. At the time, RYU was struggling -- inefficient logistics, a long supply chain, and an ill-suited Portland lease contributed to RYU financial woes. In 2014, Mr. Leone took leadership of RYU and spearheaded an overhaul which saw its headquarters moved from the United States to Canada, choosing his hometown of Vancouver to be its new corporate address.
As part of RYU's initial revitalization, Mr. Leone raised equity and renegotiated better terms and costs with suppliers and manufacturers, resulting in increased gross margins. He recruited top fashion industry talent, established the 'DNA' of the brand, and developed an enhanced corporate culture with a new long-term vision.
The brand's growth goal is substantial. As mentioned, RYU's intention is to become the world's top multi-discipline performance training and fitness brand, complimenting top category brands such as Lululemon, Under Armour, Nike, Adidas and Reebok. By 2019, it plans to redress one million athletes, with sales forecasts exceeding $100 million.
RYU's Canadian flagship will launch in September and simultaneously, the brand's e-commerce site will become fully operational. The 3,300 square foot flagship will be located at 1745 West 4 Avenue in Vancouver's Kitsilano area, and will feature a 1,800 square foot second level office area. Mr. Leone said that the Vancouver flagship will be the first of several locations for RYU, with three planned locations for 2016 in Toronto as well as in California. In 2017, the brand intends to open roughly six locations. Remarkably, by 2019, Mr. Leone expects the brand to operate about 30 free-standing stores internationally, including several in Canada. The brand will also wholesale extensively and could open shop-in-stores within larger retailers, provided the right opportunities present.
Mr. Leone mentioned that there were a number of 'surprises' in store for the brand, including a new footwear line created by a well-known company. A new spokesperson will also be announced, with details on both to be released shortly.
Mr. Leone expressed how pleased he is to be running the company out of Vancouver, and described how British Columbia's largest city has some of the 'best brains in the business'. He cited successful Vancouver-based athletic/tech/casual apparel companies such as MEC, Lululemon, Arc'teryx, Kit and Ace, Native Shoes, and other iconic brands and how these and other brands indicate how Vancouver is competing on a 'global scale'. Mr. Leone expressed how he is a proud British Columbian, and said that he expects to see substantial success from his continually expanding Vancouver-based team.