Regularly linking with our international retail partners is an essential building block as we cement KING in arguably the biggest streetwear market in the world - North America. Never a straightforward task with the preparation, distances travelled and connections - and even more complicated when mother nature starts messing with the best made plans.
State hopping between New York, Alabama, Indiana and Illinois would see us getting together with headwear giants LIDS and Southern/Mid West streetwear powerhouse City Gear - a tight schedule and all knocked out in 3 days…until we landed at JFK.
The US air transport system has been in a hot mess in 2023 - system failures, lost luggage, delays and cancellations have riddled the network and on this occasion massive electric thunderstorms grounded literally every flight out of all New York airports until further notice. Our connecting flight to Indianapolis was off the manifest, for 3 whole days - 9pm Queens NY, no flight, no hotel and we were stranded.
Nothing for it than to find a hotel on google with available rooms (the closest was in Long Island on the coast?!), jump in a cab for 45mins, get bumped on the fare, and then spend the evening cancelling hotels, flights, re-scheduling appointments and booking new routes. At the bar with beers obviously.
Woken up at 5am by seagulls and jet lag we munched down hotel breakfast, hit the boardwalk along the murky North Atlantic (if you travel a few hundred miles out on the horizon then you get to the spot where all the UAP’s were recorded by the US navy), and booked a ticket on a rickety train back up into the heart of Queens, another cab with a crazy weed-smoking driver, a new airport and our eventual flight to our re-scheduled location - Birmingham Alabama…
Bang smack in the heart of the deep south, Birmingham is nowadays a mixture of old and decaying industrial might and gentrifying hipster neighbourhoods, as well as the HQ location for City Gear. A sneaker and streetwear store chain that covers the key southern and mid-west states, the store has been on a journey of elevation in recent seasons, with a solid sneaker library and a mixture of emerging and established US staples as well as a growing international selection. Our presence with City Gear has been meticulously planned, with store coverage, product selection and in store & online marketing activations laid out via building personal face-to-face relationships. There is no substitute for going that extra mile and spending quality time with customers and the results speak for themselves.
We took in the Roebuck location store (a destination for sports stars, celebs and streetwear heads alike) and chopped it up with the staff and managers before taking in the Southern hospitality and cuisine with the buying team before more electric storms rolled in to put an end to the evening. The next day saw us say goodbye to our Southern sales agent who headed back to Dallas and we jumped on the next leg of the journey to Indiana and the headwear giants LIDS.
First flight to Chicago and navigating the worlds largest and most complicated airport - every connecting flight always leaves from the furthest gate from where we arrived - every time - before a short haul to Indianapolis. Arriving at 10.30pm our original hotel bookings out in the sticks were consigned to the bin as well as all of the availability, so we rocked up in a clapped out taxi to what appeared online to be a decent place to stay. In real life it was the kind of accommodation that serial killers and drug mules probably frequent and so we checked in, left for as long as possible before being tired enough to have to sleep and then get the hell out of there in the AM’s.
LIDS are located a stones throw from the serial killer hotel and their impressive HQ is always a warm welcome. We enter our 10th year as LIDS no.1 UK brand and once again this has been built on solid face to face relationships, understanding the intricacies of one another’s business and the desire to put the effort in to be present when and where necessary to build.
LIDS are expanding internationally at a rapid rate and to be part of that requires attention to be paid on focused strategies, tightening the infrastructure and where to gain clever margins with a full product and campaign 360 approach. The morning spent with the LIDS team was worth 6months of emails and zoom calls - true story every time. Expect to see some serious KING headwear moves over 2024 across Canada, N. America, Mexico and Europe…
What was originally a three day in and out excursion had mutated into a six day marathon - We took our last flights to Chicago, got lost again, nearly missed the connection, flights got delayed, went to the pub opposite the departure gate and then got back on the red-eye to touchdown back on UK soil. All in all a solid excursion, a test of our travelling tekkers and more miles on our deeper understanding of a huge, complex and often mis-understood US scene. The pieces of the puzzle are being put in place…watch this space