American Rec puts Isis brand up for sale

Officials decline further comment, but former co-owner Poppy Gall tells SNEWS that she thinks the brand can thrive again with the right team.
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American Rec officials tell SNEWS they have put the Isis brand up for sale, but declined further comment.

The decision comes three-and-a-half years after American Rec purchased the womens’ outdoor apparel brand from one of its co-founders Carolyn Cooke and other investors in January 2010. Cooke founded Isis along with Poppy Gall in 1998. Gall left Isis in 2009, and Cooke departed after American Rec moved the brand from Burlington, Vt. to Boulder, Colo. in 2011.

Gall told SNEWS she was aware Isis was up for sale again and did not rule out getting re-involved with the brand. “It would depend on the circumstances,” she said. “I'm always interested in learning about new challenges and opportunities.

"The brand has tremendous loyalty despite the rough patches it's hit in the past few years," Gall added. "I suspect that with the right team in place it could regain its traction in the marketplace. There continues to be a need for a core women's brand like Isis.”

Outdoor Industries Womens Coalition Director Deanne Buck echoed that sentiment. "Isis was one of the first outdoor brands to solely focus on women and established a foundation based on women's fit and trust," she said. "The women's outdoor market continues to grow and the brand plays an important role in the industry. I think there's still a lot of potential for Isis."

While Isis and American Rec ultimately may not have flourished, Buck said she could see the brand succeeding within another larger company, or perhaps on its own with the right amount of investment. It needs the support to combine its expertise in design and fit with the best technical fabrics, she said.

The move to sell Isis coincides with broader changes at American Rec. In January, the company sold the Royal Robbins brand to a private equity firm, and in May it announced the complete reboot of its Sierra Designs brand. American Rec also recently debuted a new brand called Tailgaterz to make shelters and furniture targeting the growing outdoor tailgating market.

Amidst the changes, the company also restructured staff to provide more segregation between each brand, particularly at its headquarters in Boulder, Colo., where brands like Kelty, Sierra Designs and Ultimate Direction now all have their own dedicated employees, although still share some back-end operations.

All three brands presented new products at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 in early August, but Isis was noticeably absent. The brand skipped out on the trade show to focus on more “personal previews” with retailers officials said.

The ultimate decision to sell Isis likely lies a level up from the American Rec — the company is owned by private equity group Sun Capital Partners.

--David Clucas

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