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Tommy Bahama – Living the Island Life

A place without deadlines or demands, where guests have the space to reconnect with simple pleasures, Tommy Bahama gives people the chance to breathe freely, live spontaneously and relax in style. Here, RLI speaks with CEO Doug Wood to learn more about a brand that mixes fashion with an F&B offering.

Launched in 1993, the founders of Tommy Bahama started a wholesale brand based on the refined and unhurried attitude of coastal life. What started as a casual, upscale menswear collection quickly evolved into a unique luxury lifestyle brand. The offering of the company has grown over the years to include both men’s and women’s apparel, home and beach goods, all mixed together with a thriving restaurant and bar business. Everything that bears the Tommy Bahama name is created with an unwavering sense of quality. Worldwide there are now 164 retail locations, 20 of which include a Tommy Bahama Restaurant or Marlin Bar.

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While the F&B aspect of the business has been present since the beginning, it has grown at a slower pace, something that will be changing moving forward. “We have a new restaurant concept set to rollout called Marlin Bars, and everything we create in the future will have a Marlin Bar, so we will have new retail stores with a bar attached to it, allowing us to bring experiential retail to our locations,” explains Doug Wood, CEO of Tommy Bahama. There are currently five Marlin Bars in operation in Florida and Palm Springs, with five to six new locations in the pipeline for the next 12 months in Florida, California, Nevada and Hawaii.

The company’s US store business started in 1996 in Naples, Florida and has grown to over 160 locations since. In terms of international retail expansion, their largest international market is Australia, where they launched in 2006 and now have 13 freestanding stores after the opening of its latest unit this year in Sorrento, outside of Melbourne. Their retail units in the country stretch right up the coast, from Sydney, up the Gold Coast and all the way up to Port Douglas. The company also operates nine stores in Canada alongside solid online and wholesale trade in the country. During the conversation with Wood it becomes apparent that Europe, and particularly the UK, is a place he would very much like to take the brand to one day, but as with many countries, it is all about finding the right partner to help bring the brand to European shores.

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Being a brand that operates in both the retail space and the F&B space, does that alter how the company operates across social media? “We’re like everybody in the retail space; we have got a strategy for a combination of Facebook, Instagram as well as influencers that are out in the market that we work with. When you take all three of them things together, you are constantly messaging what is going on,” explains Wood. “Then on the restaurant side, you are working with influencers through Yelp and you are holding food events where people can take pictures of your food and post it on Instagram to help spread the image of Tommy Bahama.”

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Running what is essentially two different businesses under the same umbrella, the company faces two unique sets of employees, different levels of expectations and two different sets of customer wants and needs. But Wood is adamant that when it all comes together, it’s fantastic and incredibly rewarding. “Our vision for the company is to create this exceptional island lifestyle brand that inspires you to relax. Our niche is bringing apparel to what guests want to wear on the weekends and what you want to wear when you go on vacation, that’s our job,” says Wood.
While Tommy Bahama may not be considered a giant brand… yet, after more than a quarter of a century in business it is still growing, it is a financially stable and healthy company whose best days are ahead of it instead of behind it, which is something that Wood finds incredibly exciting.

Based in Seattle, Washington, the Tommy Bahama offices are actually situated in and around the Amazon campus, offering all the motivation Wood will ever need to keep the company moving forward. “People talk about pushing the boundaries in every possible business on the planet and making everybody work harder because the likes of Amazon can simply outspend everyone, but it’s not about spending. It’s about speed, innovation and constantly thinking through your lens. So for our brand lens, what makes sense for our guests and what is going to entice them to keep coming back,” concludes Wood.