As the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis deepens what affect it it having on the outdoor industry?
What challenges, opportunities and thoughts are going through people’s minds?
General mood/Current situation:
Chris Field, Commercial Director, Nikwax Ltd, said: “We’re currently facing complicated and concerning times; the most we can all strive for is a bit of normality. At Nikwax we’re committed to keeping business as normal as possible in the coming months, while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our staff and customers. We’re still trading through this period and our intention is to keep up production and supply as long as possible. Many of our staff are working from home which will help keep our employees and community safe, while we continue to support our customers.”
Max Malavasi, Co-CEO, Aquapac International Ltd, said: “It’s obviously an extraordinary time which requires an equal response. We will do what we can to help our staff and customers. We’re confident we’ll get through it. This is an opportunity to take stock and see how we need to adapt for the future.”
Patrick Meier, International Retail Sales Manager, LifeStraw, said: “Negative mood: we’re very concerned about the damage Covid-19 is having and will have on society (deaths, unemployment, economic crisis, etc). Positive mood: we saw our brand awareness increasing because consumers are now looking, more than ever, for products like LifeStraw which allows them to live healthier lives, protecting them and their loved ones from potential impurities. We’re happy that we can propose a valuable solution in this sense for daily life: at home, during sport and outdoor activity, while travelling.”
Andy Laycock, Marketing Manager, Pertex, said: “In the current very challenging circumstances, we are working with Pertex brand partners in order to minimise any supply chain disruption and to keep them informed of new developments, as the situation progresses. We also continue to provide marketing and PR support to our brand partners throughout this difficult period.”
Rich Pyne, Commercial Director, Paramo Directional Clothing Systems, added: “Nothing is more important to us than the health and wellbeing of our Páramo staff, customers and suppliers and we are acting on current government advice to help keep everyone as safe as possible.
“During this period of unprecedented global uncertainty, we would like to reassure you that we are committed to doing all we can to help our communities, whilst maintaining business continuity.”
Ian Elliot, co-founder Elliot Brown Watches: “As far as our situation is concerned, financially we’re supporting everyone and it’ll hurt but however long this goes on for we’ll adapt, make a new plan and carry on doing what we do…. and being upbeat - that’s so important.”
How operations have changed to cope:
Max Malavasi, Co-CEO, Aquapac International Ltd, said: “We have had to shut down our factory this week but our sales, marketing and finance teams are all working remotely and will respond to any enquiries. We can still ship product from our fulfilment houses in the UK and US. We’re making cases for phone, iPad and VHF radio, that can be washed down to make these devices germ-free. This is essential to the NHS and keyworkers. We’re offering a discount through our website and if there’s demand from companies that need our products for essential work, we’ll do our best to reopen if we cannot supply items from stock.”
Per Marriott, Sales Northern Europe, Polartec LLC: “Working for an American company in Europe, we’re used to “smart working” so from a communication point of view, we had a lot of things in place already. Clearly now, given the lock down situation, our customer meetings have to take place “digitally” rather than face-to-face.”
Ian Elliot, co-founder Elliot Brown Watches: “Life in business is full of obstacles and more challenges than you could shake a stick at. We have a saying that every day is a school day. The day you think you know how to do it is the day you fail!
“Embracing change is something we have always excelled at, sometimes through choice - growth, ambition and sometimes because of things outside our control. Habitual behaviour is in our nature but it’s great to learn new things, how to operate from home, how to manage chunks of time, how to be, how to stay fit when the routine has been cancelled. If we’re fit and well and mentally strong, we can choose to be down or up about the situation and get up every day like it’s the first. We’re thinking about how we do things, looking inwards, analysing.. It’s like having a mental spring clean.”
How is the future looking?
Max Malavasi, Co-CEO, Aquapac International Ltd: “There are opportunities as we have identified potential medical products we can make in the future. It’s hard to predict how things will evolve at this point. More business will probably move online. There is an ever-growing awareness about the importance of personal health (both physical and mental) and a justifiable concern for the planet’s well-being. We want to address both of these major issues and put them even more into the forefront of our Company philosophy.”
Rich Pyne, Commercial Director, Paramo Directional Clothing Systems: “Our website remains open for business as usual, with our much anticipated spring/summer 2020 launch going ahead next week in our valued retail partner stores and at paramo-clothing.com. Expect new products, updated designs and appealing colours, with free delivery on all orders.”
Per Marriott, Sales Northern Europe, Polartec LLC: “We, as a company that produces technical fabrics, have already delivered a good part of the fabric needed for our customers’ SS21 samples. Both for us and for our brand partners there will be challenges due to COVID-19 but we will work together, learning from these challenges with a view to turning them into positives.”
How do you plan to deal with the restart?
Max Malavasi, Co-CEO, Aquapac International Ltd: “We’re working on new product launches which we will delay until things settle down. We will make use of this time to prepare even better for when things restart. It’s too early to talk about details now as we don’t know how long this will go on for. We have a raft of new products to release this year which we’re excited about. We will look at every aspect of our marketing.”
Patrick Meier, International Retail Sales Manager, LifeStraw, said: “LifeStraw is a company that has its roots in the public health sector. We will focus even more in communicating to retailers, offering training and onboarding them on our Give Back through retail programme. Through retailers’ effort and participation in the Give Back program, we’re able to make contaminated water safe to drink for communities around the world. When purchasing a LifeStraw product, a consumer has direct and positive impact on the health of a school kid in western Kenya. I believe that after Covid-19 consumers will be more sensitive than ever about this kind of situation.”
Per Marriott, Sales Northern Europe, Polartec LLC: “We are advocates of joint marketing and co-ops, helping our brands through the sell-in and sell-out phases. We will continue to roll these out, trying our best to support our partners with marketing and communication activities.”
On the topic of climate change:
Per Marriott, Sales Northern Europe, Polartec LLC: “How quickly we have pulled together on Covid-19. When our very existence threatens to be compromised, we can make fast changes. This is a lesson that Polartec is taking to heart. We have recycled over 1.5 billion plastic bottles and know we can do more which is why we are sponsoring the National Geographic Forum to advance plastics research and debate. If we take anything away from this, it’s how can we do more.”
Stephanie Briggs, Managing Director, Spring PR Ltd: “For Spring PR, it is indeed challenging. We, like many are a small business, this makes you vulnerable but it also makes you more adaptable. While there have been many changes – ripped up plans, change in workplace, new focuses – it has presented us with the opportunity to reset, take stock and regroup. I keep coming back to the climate. The calm in the air, the reduction in cars and planes. The space for the climate to breathe. It’s my silver lining in all this. And, whilst I held my head in my hands when the EOCA invoice came in today, I realised that this, protecting our outdoors, our friends and family, is what it’s all about.”