Horny Toad sells Nau brand to Korean outdoor company

Nau will remain in Portland, but gain new leadership team from Black Yak Co. in Korea. SNEWS has the details.
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Horny Toad has sold its urban/outdoor apparel specialty Nau brand to Korean outdoor staple Black Yak Co. for an undisclosed amount.

Nau will remain headquartered in Portland, Ore. as a wholly owned, independent subsidiary of Black Yak, but it will add new leadership. Black Yak’s Jun Suk Kang will serve as Nau president and DH Lee will step into the vice president and secretary role. Nau Co-founder and General Manager Mark Galbraith will remain with the company to lead creative and design management and help form the brand’s global growth strategy, officials said.

"All the talent has stayed in place at Nau and we're gaining substantial global and operational expertise and resources from Black Yak," Galbraith told SNEWS. Nau employs 17 people in Portland, and Galbraith expects that number to grow, "adding back a few roles" that were previously handled by Horny Toad.

Based in Seoul, South Korea, the 40-year-old Black Yak Co. is well known in its home country and China through its private Black Yak mountaineering apparel label and more than 300 stores. It also holds the distribution license for several outdoor brands in Korea, including Marmot.

Galbraith said Black Yak represented the right fit for Nau, not only to match its ambitions for global expansion, but to work with a larger, like-minded company that is still privately-held. "Having a 40-year-old brand that the founder is still the chairman creates stability and thoughtfulness that we probably wouldn't find with a publicly traded firm," he said.

In addition to plans for the global expansion of Nau, Black Yak officials said they immediately will put money into the brand to build its infrastructure in the United Sates through “innovation and product development, key appointments and digital and consumer-facing communications.” Nau sells about 50 percent of its products direct-to-consumer online, and the other half through wholesale specialty outdoor and lifestyle retailers.

"We'll continue to stay committed to specialty retail, and at the same time, maintain our strong direct business, which is important to the awareness and growth of the brand," Galbraith said. He said retailers can expect increased service and attention as more employees are added.

The Black Yak deal marks the third generation for Nau, which began in 2005 as a direct-to-consumer brand. In 2008, Nau fell on hard times — actually closing shop for six weeks after it was unable to secure financing at the start of the recession. Later that summer, Horny Toad purchased and resurrected Nau from the grave, expanding the brand to specialty retail.

For Black Yak, the Nau acquisition marks its first entry into the North American market. While the immediate focus will be on Nau, Galbraith said there's opportunity down the road to bring the Black Yak label to the United States and Canada.

"They now have a base of operations here," Galbraith said. "That's certainly a possibility in the long term. The focus for the near term is Nau."

--David Clucas

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