Store of the Future   //   June 10, 2024

Boot Barn is opening one store a week to cement itself as a national lifestyle brand

Western wear retailer Boot Barn sees stores as the key to building a bigger brand following. A lot of stores. 

Over the past 12 years, Boot Barn’s footprint has grown from 86 locations in eight states to 400 stores across 45 states. It opened 55 new stores in 2024, more than one per week. Boot Barn sees a path to opening 500 more stores by fiscal year 2030. Some of its newest openings are concentrated in shopping centers in smaller cities and cities located outside of big metropolitan centers. For example, in June Boot Barn is opening stores in Wooster, Ohio, South Portland, Maine, Mankato, Minnesota and Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. 

The company’s president and CEO, Jim Conroy has said on previous earnings calls that opening more stores has helped transform Boot Barn from a “regional retailer” into a “true national lifestyle brand.” Alongside simply opening more locations, Boot Barn has also redesigned its stores to place more emphasis on some of its sub-brands like a fashion brand called Wonderwest and Cody James Workwear. The goal of opening more stores — and redesigning them — has been to build a brand that appeals to a greater variety of people. 

“It’s exciting to see these stores open up in different states that you don’t necessarily think of an associate with cowboy culture,” Isha Nicole, Boot Barn’s svp of marketing and creative director told Modern Retail.

Janine Stitcher, a managing director at BTIG who follows Boot Barn, said she’s received questions about whether or not Boot Barn can truly reach 900 stores. She points to Tractor Supply’s trajectory as evidence of where Boot Barn can go. Tractor Supply isn’t a competitor to Boot Barn, but it appeals to a similar customer. Tractor Supply has grown to more than 2,000 locations and like Boot Barn, is still opening stores at a rapid clip. The company currently has 2,233 stores and plans to open 90 new stores a year starting in 2025.

It is this aggressive brick-and-mortar expansion strategy that has helped Boot Barn weather the tumultuous retail landscape. During Boot Barn’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings, the company reported that net sales decreased 8.7% year over year. However, compared to pre-pandemic, Boot Barn’s revenue is up 100%, and the company’s stock price is up 70% compared to a year ago.

Boot Barn has been around since 1978. It is headquartered in Irvine, California, and for the first couple of decades of its existence, largely targeted customers in Texas and the Western United States. However, the quest to build it into a national brand began around the time that it went public in 2014. 

Historically, Stitcher said, the type of shopper Boot Barn appealed to was “pretty narrow — kind of your core rodeo, rancher guy.” Since going public, Stitcher said, Boot Barn hasn’t completely deviated from these customers but “they have gone a little broader.” 

Much of that work has been done by Nicole, who was hired in 2016 to help rebrand the retailer. 

As part of this work, she spearheaded the redesign of Boot Barn stores, laid the groundwork for sub-brands like Wonderwest and Boot Barn Work and helped Boot Barn do more customer segmentation. 

All of these elements feed into Boot Barn’s store strategy. Nicole said that Boot Barn’s stores were redesigned to be “more emblematic of cowboy culture.” That meant incorporating more raw materials and earth tones into store design, in order to appeal to a more fashion-focused consumer, while still staying true to Boot Barn’s cowboy roots. 

More attention has also been given to merchandising different sub-collections. Boot Barn sees its customers as falling into one of four distinct segments: Western, Work, Country and Fashion. They are all people who are interested in the country and western lifestyle, but for different reasons. The Western customer segment is likely to work in ranching and agriculture and attend rodeos. The Work segment consists of people who work in blue-collar industries like oil & gas. The Country customer is more likely to be interested in hunting and fishing, and the Fashion consumer is more interested in country music and the associated aesthetic. 

In turn, Nicole said, the buying team tags every single one of these products as falling into those four buckets. That way, if a new customer walks into store and buys a product that is in one of those categories, Boot Barn only sends them marketing related to products in that segment. That, Nicole said, has been critical to store sales growth. 

Boot Barn has also started experimenting with using more technology in-store, like Bandit, an AI-powered style recommendation tool. With the help of a store associate, customers can use this tool to find products similar to whatever style they are looking for. Nicole said the initial reception has been positive, but declined to share specifics. 

As Boot Barn continues its supercharged store growth, it’s also looking for ways to reach out to different types of customers. While Boot Barn has a variety of marketing initiatives that include sponsoring 600 rodeos nationwide and bringing on country artists like Morgan Wallen as brand ambassadors, it is also experimenting with marketing activations that aren’t as overtly tied to country. For the past two years, for example, Boot Barn has facilitated influencer events for Coachella to “appeal to the Coachella goer who is just inspired by Western fashion at the moment.” 

These marketing initiatives, as well as the store openings, tie into the same goal, Nicole said.
“Our objective at the end of the day is to foster an affinity for the Boot Barn brand.”