Hard Corps Sports, a Boulder, Col.-based technical skiwear company that
has a strong dealer base of almost 150 retailers in North America, as
well as numerous accounts in Europe and other parts of the globe, is
closing its doors. Not because the company is in danger of going
bankrupt, but because company founder and president Skip Rapp has run
the numbers forward and backward, and he feels the business no longer
represents a good economic model.
Although Hard Corps attended the recent SIA show and wrote orders,
including some with significant increases over last year, Rapp told
SNEWSÂ® there really was no way to make this work. He notified retailers
"Even if our business increased 450 percent, it did not make economic
sense to keep operating," Rapp said. "We are paying all of our bills
and getting investment dollars was not the problem.
"When we launched our company in 1986-87, the average retail price for
our goods was $300 to $350, in actual dollars," Rapp told us. "Today,
our average retail is $100 less than that. That model is true for
everyone in the industry. And, a jacket selling at retail for $250 is
still above average, making it an even more difficult sell. The fact
is, we have had a significant decrease is the price we are able to get
for our product, but not a representative decrease in cost for
manufacturing that product."
Rapp, who told us he expects to shut down the wholesale side of the
business by March 15, also told us he may continue operating as a
uniforms-only business for ski resorts and guides around the world. The
uniforms side of the business, he said, was profitable.
It is getting harder and harder for the niche players in the outerwear
and technical apparel side to make a go of it, even if they have a
relatively strong backing of core retailers -- and Hard Corps did.
Could this be a preview of more companies choosing to close or to merge
with larger brethren? As long as price is the primary driving factor in
making a sale to the consumer, SNEWSÂ® expects to see an increasing
number of companies deciding to close doors or "sell-out" to larger
companies who can still make the bottom line work by spreading costs
over a much broader playing field. We've seen a fair number of
financial sheets from our niche friends and associates, and, as many
have also confided in us, they'd make more money these days with a
short-term CD investment than they would investing in their business.
Now that is a sad state of affairs.