British outdoor brand Mountain Equipment opens U.S. distribution

Mountain Equipment, a 50-year-old British outdoor gear and apparel brand has opened a U.S. distribution office, seeking to sell its products in specialty retail stores here. SNEWS talks to Craig Dixon, who will lead the U.S. entry.
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A 50-year-old British outdoor gear and apparel brand has opened a U.S. subsidiary office and warehouse to distribute its products to specialty retailers here.

Mountain Equipment (www.mountain-equipment.co.uk) recently opened its U.S. location in Stanwood, Wash., north of Seattle, and debuted product for the first time stateside at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Craig Dixon, formerly a marketing director at Brunswick, will head the U.S. office, and said at least eight specialty retail shops will begin selling the company’s jackets, sleeping bags and tents this fall.

Founded in 1961, Mountain Equipment has a history of providing high-end gear for mountain expeditions and excursions, Dixon said. Its hardshells, which utilize Gore-Tex ActiveShell and ProShell technology, run in the $285-$500 retail range. It also makes softshells (MSRPs $100-$200), thermal fleeces (MSRPs $60-$150), down jackets (MSRPs $130-$400) – including a full down suit for MSRP $890 – tents (MSRPs $290-$650) and down sleeping bags (MSRPs $190-$750).

“The strategy for the company has always been go through specialty retailers, but in order to grow, it faced the question of whether to expand through big box retailers or to expand with specialty retailers in other countries,” Dixon told SNEWS. “We’re sticking with specialty retailers.”

More than a decade ago, Mountain Equipment expanded into continental Europe, Dixon said, and in 2010 it experimented with a larger push into Germany, getting its product into an additional 60 specialty stores there. The success, spurred the decision to try the U.S. market next, he said.

The U.S. entry will begin with a focus on specialty stores in the West. And Dixon said Mountain Equipment was well received at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2011 in August, which will lead to more participating retailers. He declined to release any retail partner names yet.

“If you looked at our booth, you wouldn’t know there was an economic recession going on,” Dixon said. “It was a positive response.”

The company will soon update its website to reflect the international push with the option for U.S. weights, measurements and prices. However, it does not have plans to open an e-commerce site, nor does it do e-commerce in Europe.

“We leave all the selling to our specialty retailers whether they want to do it online or in stores,” Dixon said.

The iconic British outdoor brand is not to be confused with Mountain Equipment Co-op, the Canadian outdoor retail co-operative chain in Canada. The jump across the pond for the U.K.'s Mountain Equipment will only include distribution in the United States, not Canada, Dixon said. Mountain Equipment is a wholly owned subsidiary of Outdoor Sports & Company Ltd, based in Hyde, Cheshire, in England.

-- David Clucas

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