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OC Insider: Boot Barn Trades Up

The western wear from Irvine’s Boot Barn (NYSE: BOOT) may not yet be considered luxury apparel, but it’s trending in that direction.

“The trade-up, trade-down part of our equation has bucked conventional wisdom a little bit,” Jim Conroy, president and CEO of the Irvine-based retailer, said last week, when asked about whether Boot Barn consumers have been looking to buy less expensive items or brands at its stores, in the face of rising inflation.

“Some of our best-selling categories are [at] higher price points,” said Conroy, according to a report in Footwear News, which covered the exec’s presentation at Goldman Sachs’ 30th Annual Global Retailing Conference.

“I know that flies in the face of what a lot of other folks [in the apparel industry] are calling out.”

Conroy said at the conference that men’s exotic skin cowboy boots, which are among Boot Barn’s most expensive in-store items, are also among its “highest growth businesses.”

“We haven’t seen a significant trade down in price point,” said Conroy, whose firm is currently worth nearly $2.7 billion. Boot Barn’s market cap is up over 30% this year.

A move to a more upscale look can be seen at the company’s redesigned stores, such as a recent addition to the Market Place shopping center, on the Tustin side of the Irvine Co. shopping center.

The Business Journal hears that’s not the only upscale real estate move that Boot Barn is making in Irvine. See next week’s print edition for more info.

Auto Expansions: OC remains a growing hub for next-gen automotive and trucking firms, as evidenced by a pair of winners at the Business Journal’s latest Innovator of the Year Awards; the five winners from the Sept. 7 event are profiled in this edition.

Phillips Industries, which is consolidating some of its operations at UCI Research Park, provide technology to make trailer-truck hauling safer and smoother.

Back-up cameras, now ubiquitous among new cars, is still a new concept for big rigs, CEO Rob Phillips notes.

Another award winner, Alex Parker of Orange’s Redline Detection, has helped shift the company from developing automotive diagnostic equipment for internal combustion engines, to building the software equivalent for electric vehicles.

The EV expansion is helping some local law firms, too. Costa Mesa’s MLG Attorneys at Law was expected to kick off a trial against Tesla at a Riverside’s courthouse last Friday, as the Business Journal went to press.

The case, Molander vs. Tesla, is the first autopilot death case making it to trial for Tesla, according to the law firm, which has been expanding its attorney count and office presence at the Plaza Tower office.

Auto Contractions: In June 2022, Romeo Power, a battery maker for commercial electric vehicles, completed its relocation from Vernon to a 215K-SF manufacturing facility in Cypress.

A few months later, the firm was bought by EV truck maker Nikola (Nasdaq: NKLA) for $144M in stock.

The purchase wasn’t a winner for Nikola; this summer the firm shed the Romeo unit and liquidated the Cypress company’s assets. The OC facility, now closed, has been subleased to another firm, brokerage reports indicate.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.
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