Sustainability-focused multi-brand retailer Wolf & Badger is on track to hit $100 million in sales this year through a focus on in-store brand activations, a marketplace model and a growing TikTok presence.
The independent fashion and home retailer launched in 2010 in Notting Hill, London. Since then, it has grown its sales year-over-year year, establishing a foothold in the U.K.’s physical and online retail landscapes. It has one local store, in London’s Kings Cross neighborhood. Wolf & Badger has become a popular go-to U.K. retailer for independent and niche fashion brands, as well as jewelry and homeware. Its online business has also made it popular with international customers; last year, its website attracted an average of 4 million visitors per month across the U.K. and U.S. markets.
Wolf & Badger expanded to the U.S. in 2017 with a 2,500-square-foot store in New York. It followed that up with a 1,600-square-foot location on L.A.’s Melrose Avenue in 2022. As a retailer supporting independent designers and brands, sustainability ranks high on its priority list. It ranks the brands it carries according to 15 sustainability standards featured on its site, allowing for clear communication with the customer. To be carried by Wolf & Badger, brands must receive a minimum ranking of one badge. The badges reward happy workers, a brand’s low impact and artisan craftsmanship. Brands have to provide supporting evidence, including a transparent supply chain traceable back to source materials, to receive a badge.
The brand, which received B-Corp certification in 2021, has focused on interchangeable retail designs and accessible pricing to bring in a diverse range of brands. Through its marketplace model, brands pay $375 per month for promotion in Wolf & Badger marketing and a prime location in its stores. Ninety-seven percent of the brand’s sales still come from its online business, and Wolf & Badger has been profitable since late 2022.
Below, Wolf & Badger co-founder and creative director Henry Graham, discusses the company’s use of sustainability badges, road to B-Corp, expansion to the U.S. and strategy for retail.
What’s been the response to the sustainability badges among your partner brands?
“What we found from first-hand feedback from brands is that the badges have given them the opportunity and the aspiration to level-up their game and think about how they make an impact. The badges help them not only with stocking on our platform, but also with selling through their own website or stores and with other stockists as they can identify their individual sustainability impacts in a clear and legible way.”
Compared to brands, is it more challenging for retailers to become B-Corp organizations?
“It took us two years to get B-Corp certified, and it’s hard to do for a marketplace. When we got it, we were the only U.K. marketplace that had been certified. It’s simpler if you are a mono brand or you have your own product, because then there are fewer answers that you have to provide. But we had to jump through a lot of hoops because of all the brands we work with and the fact that we’re selling across multiple territories. Now, it’s the sustainability legislation that we’re always thinking about. We like to think we’re quite at the vanguard of this movement of people thinking about consumption.”
How has the company resonated in the U.S. market, compared to the U.K.?
“When we started considering moving into New York, the U.S. was about 20% of our business. We were led to enter the market by two things: One, we knew there was customer demand, and two, we knew there were local brands in the U.S. that could work for that audience. Now, we actually sell more in California than we do in New York. The product mix from New York to California is very different, and we have about 250,000 products online. The average order value in the U.S. is 20-30% higher than in the U.K. We find that the U.S. customers we are reaching are a bit less price sensitive and want unique designers, making our assortment and trunk show events the differentiator.”
Tell me about the in-store experience you’re providing.
“We provide the stores as an add-on opportunity [to e-commerce] for brands to be able to reach customers in the real world. Because we have a lot of demand from the brands we work with to have a presence in those store locations, we change up the store offering quarterly and have rotating retail elements that we can reuse across our stores. All brands can host pop-up events in any of our stores at no additional cost, and we run events pretty much all the time. For us, sustainable retailing means bringing customers closer to the artisanal process and story behind the brand, which we share via TikTok. The customers love it. At the events, they get to meet the designers themselves, and it’s more like an old-fashioned department store trunk show.”