Terresa Zimmerman is an unlikely fashion pioneer. She’s not a trend follower; she hates shopping. (In her former career, she was a B2B consultant to non-fashion companies in metals and technology.) Yet about eight years ago, brainstorming and networking with a lot of creative talent, Wood was born: an innovative new concept for men’s underwear, shirts and loungewear focused on luxury performance fabrics, comfort and sustainability. “I wanted the brand to be irreverent and fun,” she explains. “Being outdoor people and living in Hermosa Beach, a link with the beach and ocean sports is a natural. It embodies our core values: have fun, keep-it-real, aspire to push further no matter your sport, level or age. Of course, we are also about fashion, or our slightly irreverent take on it.”
As a woman, she was initially skeptical of launching a men’s underwear brand, but her concerns were dissipated by lots of encouragement from her husband (who loved the product right away!) and by some solid market research indicating that her concept presented her, and the specialty stores she was targeting, a huge opportunity. “Stores make a lot of money selling socks; the replenishment rate (and margins) are at least the same in underwear yet at the time, there was minimal innovation and very few options. Between the basic multi-packs sold in discounters and the very expensive designer product was lots of blank space and lots of men missing out on great basics. I was determined to make underwear the next go-to category.”
The Research: Men are Ready
Doing her research, Terresa discovered other indicators of the huge opportunity at retail:
*The average age of the underwear in a man’s drawer is seven years. (No one should touch, let alone wear, underwear that old!)
*Men readily acknowledge that starting with a great base layer makes everything a guy wears over it look and feel better.
*Men seem increasingly open to suggestive selling and are starting to add a variety of styles to their underwear drawer.
*Men appreciate the benefits of new technology in fabrics and fits they’ve had limited access to in the past.
*In a new era of ‘functional luxury,’ men are willing to spend more if given a reason to.
The Reason: There’s wood in Wood
Wood Underwear has developed amazing fabrics for both its in-stock and fashion programs. These modern sustainable fabrics (offered in many guy-friendly colors and patterns) include Modal (beech tree cellulose) blended with cotton (for structure) resulting in great hand, wicking properties, amazing performance and easy care, and Tencel (wood cellulose) also blended with cotton for structure, softness, wicking properties, odor and temperature control, great performance and easy care. All this, at MSRP’s from $20-$100 (for fashion loungewear), slightly more for the cashmere/modal blends that are both machine washable and dryable.
Customer Satisfaction: Wow!
According to numerous happy retailers, selling Wood Underwear is definitely bolstering their bottom line. Says Arnold Borenstein from Town & County in Springfield, Missouri, “The only time we sell a single piece of this brand is the first time a customer tries it. After that, it sells in multiples. People keep adding more to their collections.”
Borenstein goes on and on about the assets of his favorite brand. “The underwear is fabulous but so are the t-shirts: Terresa has managed to solve a lot of problems by adding extra length and creating necklines that don’t droop. As for the loungewear, it’s crazy comfortable! It’s the first thing I put on as soon as I get home from work. The pants and shorts have drawstring waists and two deep pockets so they function well indoors and out.”
He especially loves Wood’s cashmere collection. “It’s more expensive but we sold out three times this past holiday. It’s comfortable, washable, and exceptional. At our level of business, people are looking for unique gifts and the entire Wood collection just feels special. We’ve been carrying it for four years and business keeps getting better. The proof is in the repeat customers.”
Sums up Jeff Pagel from The Clothes Post in Petoskey, Michigan (where the population triples in the summer), “Wood is a wonderful line because of the comfort fabrics, the colors, the packaging and the pricing: it’s a good five to eight bucks under other brands that feature luxury performance fabrics…”
And from Alyssia Hylton from Boulevard in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, “It’s the best underwear line I’ve ever carried! I always tell my customers ‘Don’t touch it, don’t buy it: it will ruin your life! Once you try this underwear, you’ll hate everything else. You’ll have to toss all your old stuff and come back and buy every style we carry.’”
Hylton carries two other brands but Wood is the one she can count on. “There’s sometimes a little sticker shock at first, before the customer understands it. But once he tries it and realizes all the assets—comfort, fit, shape retention, sustainability—it quickly becomes a habit. And a great way to build a business!”
Finally, there’s the store owner who recently called Terresa with the following message: “I put on my new Wood boxer briefs, jumped into bed and my wife immediately exclaimed ‘Wow!” She noticed, and they worked.”