“Coup” opens up about what went wrong at GoLite and how My Trail will be better.
In 1998, Demetri “Coup” Coupounas, a passionate hiker, started building the gear he wanted but wasn’t finding from traditional brands. GoLite was a technical brand aimed at hardcore hikers looking to shave weight from their loads in order to hike farther and improve their comfort. His designs, which were innovative, functional, and yes, always light, started racking up the awards. The company displayed its products in a big, always-busy booth at Outdoor Retailer and GoLite wholesale business peaked at around $2.5 million.
There was no question: The gear was good. Retailers wanted it in their stores and customers wanted it on their trips. But in 2012, Coup abandoned the wholesale model and moved to direct-to consumer sales only. Eventually, he started to open up GoLite stores—20 at its peak—scattered around Colorado. But the expense of running those stores—and filling them with GoLite gear—overwhelmed the company.
By the end of 2014, GoLite had racked up some credit card debt and declared bankruptcy. The company folded.
But Coup’s loyal customers still wanted their fix of GoLite gear. So he asked them to open their wallets and help him bring back his best designs under a new name: My Trail Co. He currently runs a lean online and brick-and-mortar operation out of a 1,300 square foot retail space off of the main drag at Boulder’s popular 29th Street Mall. He has only four full-time staffers and stocks four jackets, four shelters, two packs, and a handful of accessories.
SNEWS paid him a visit to learn about the new company.
1. What happened to GoLite?
Coup: GoLite went bankrupt. In 2012 we moved to vertical integration and direct-to-consumer, and that was a good move. But our execution had one fatal flaw: We had stores that were too big and costly to operate. In order to fill those stores with merchandise, we had to start to build casual, lifestyle product like sweaters and corduroys, and those products weren’t nearly as popular as our technical apparel and equipment offering.
2. Why will My Trail succeed where GoLite failed?
Coup: Because we’ve taken the good from GoLite—the best technical products—and ditched the bad. We will run this company lean and mean just like we pack our packs. We won’t show at trade shows because we aren’t focusing on the wholesale model but we do have several international distributors and dealers in Japan, Taiwan, Germany, and France and will happily sell to U.S. dealers at the same prices and terms if some want to carry the line. We will have smaller stores and focus on high-end technical product that’s affordable to more people. Our customers want great products at great prices and that’s what we give them. Our 800-fill Light Down Jacket [formerly known as the GoLite Demaree Canyon] is selling at $99 right now. In season, it will go for $119. I know of three wholesale companies that sell comparable jackets at $229.
This spring, we’re rolling out more products: rain shells and pants, trail running and hiking shirts, shorts, and pants. In the fall, we’ll expand our shelter, pack, and down insulated jacket offerings. In 2018, we’ll add a few more items like wind shells. But ultimately our customers and investors will decide how fast we grow.
You’ll see some new designs from My Trail as early as six or seven months from now. I wanted to make sure we had an airtight business case for the customers we are asking to invest. I had to invest my own money, and I had to look my 6-year old in the eye and explain what we were doing. It would be irresponsible to come out of the gate with anything other than what we know works: GoLite’s absolute best products.
3. What other outdoor brands do you admire?
Coup: GoLite [laughs]. Good original thought does not benefit too much from admiring others. I want to be the best My Trail ever, not the next something else. I respected the hell out of Bibler when it was standalone. I respect Hilleberg, Western Mountaineering, and Feathered Friends. These companies make exceptionally fabulous product, with great attention to detail and great quality. You buy those products and you know that you’ll still be psyched about them 15 yeas later. That’s what I want My Trail to be.
To learn more about My Trail Co.—its products, its investment platform, its history—click here.