Christchurch, New Zealand-based, outdoor equipment and clothing company Macpac has been acquired by Mouton Noir, owner of the Fairydown outdoor equipment and clothing brand which the company acquired in early 2007. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close on Feb. 29, were not announced.
The agreement means that Macpac Wilderness Equipment Ltd. will cease operations as a corporation and the Macpac brand will now operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mouton Noir.
"Mouton Noir's experience in product design and retail of the Fairydown brand make them an ideal owner of Macpac," said Bruce McIntyre, Macpac founder and director, in an official statement released by the company. Though the sale was a difficult one for him to consider, McIntyre added that the timing was simply right.
"I've been involved with Macpac for 35 years, but for the last three years, I haven't had any role in management. Over that time, I've been in the process of setting up a new school. Education is where my interests lie now," McIntyre was quoted as saying in the company release.
According to the official statement, increased competition from brands being imported for sale at specialty retailers across New Zealand and Australia were causing Macpac officials to seriously contemplate owning its own retail outlets.
"Macpac has been exploring going down this path and having its own retail outlets, but it would have required outside equity, so this provides a practical solution. It means that Macpac will no longer be fighting for space in retail stores but rather will have a strong and complete representation, and that really pleases me," McIntyre said in the release.
Campbell Junor, a Mouton Noir director, said via an official press release that Mouton Noir intended to substantially grow the Macpac brand in New Zealand and Australia through direct retailing and product development.
Mouton Noir currently owns six Fairydown retail stores in New Zealand. Further stores openings are planned in Australia, where the same model of selling Macpac directly to consumers only through company-owned stores will be replicated. Macpac will cease the sale of its products to other retailers in New Zealand and Australia as of March 1.
The acquisition will have a human cost. Brian Alder, long-time international marketing manager for Macpac, and David Ross, a recent addition as sales and marketing manager for North America, have been let go, SNEWS® has learned. There is no official word as yet regarding additional layoffs, though, insiders tell us more terminations are likely as the two companies integrate.
John Pearce will continue on with Macpac, assuming the role of export manager we are told. Pearce has been with Macpac for 15 years.
Mouton Noir is a New Zealand company owned by Bernie Wicht, Campbell Junor and Pierre van Noorden, of Christchurch. Bernie Wicht has 30 years experience in the outdoor equipment industry and set up the Bivouac chain. Campbell Junor has 15 years experience in outdoor product design and development, and Pierre van Noorden has been in outdoor retail operations since 1996. Mouton Noir also manages the operations of Nood, a homeware, giftware and furniture store chain launched by Kathmandu founder Jan Cameron, billed frequently as the wealthiest woman in New Zealand. Cameron sold Kathmandu, a clothing retailer, to Goldman Sachs and Quadrant Private Equity in 2006 for a reported NZD $275 million (USD $218.9 million). Cameron also sold Fairydown to Mouton Noir in early 2007 for an undisclosed sum. Wicht was involved with the establishment of Kathmandu with Cameron, though, he sold his interest before the big payday occurred.
Macpac, founded by McIntyre in 1973, merged with Wilderness (also founded in the 1970s, by Geoff and Shelley Gabites) into Macpac Wilderness in 1983 and has continued to grow since that time into the internationally recognized Macpac brand. McIntyre and Shelley Gabites continued to privately own the company, with McIntyre the majority shareholder. Click here to read SNEWS®'s 2004 in-depth story on Macpac's first foray into the U.S. market, "Macpac tiptoes onto U.S. shores banking on specialty retailers noticing."
SNEWS® View: Both Macpac and Fairydown are known for technical outdoor clothing, sleeping bags, packs and tents, but Macpac is arguably the better known brand outside of New Zealand, and some might say, since Fairydown spent the last several years practically in mothballs, in New Zealand as well.
We are personally not surprised to see McIntyre sell Macpac at all. When we last visited with the company several years ago, he was stepping away from the daily management and told us during a visit to his home that his passion and interests were leading him into other directions. And, frankly, though things are assuredly a bit fuzzy in terms of global direction and details currently, we suspect Mouton Noir (yes, it means black sheep) is as good a new owner as might be hoped for.
Junor, van Noorden and Wicht all knew each other through Kathmandu. Van Noorden, we have been told, was essentially responsible for opening all of Kathmandu's retail stores, and will be performing a similar function with Mouton Noir. Clearly, these guys know retail!
Junor cut his teeth with Kathmandu while studying outdoor education and working in the repair shop. He soon moved into a full-time position running product development for the company. He left in 2000. Junor is also involved in Nood fulfilling his passions for architecture and design -- yes, he is designing furniture and other household items.
Wicht was one of the three original owners of Kathmandu, and then once he left, he started another very successful outdoor chain in New Zealand called Bivouac.
So, one might say, three very talented guys with diverse talents just acquired two dream brands to pursue a dream. Not a bad scenario. Yes, there will be changes, no doubt. In a phone call with Junor, it became clear he intends to move cautiously, but deliberately, when making decisions about the Macpac business in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States. It would be fair to say he intends to support retailers in all the markets; however, the exact details of how that support will be realized has yet to be determined.
In the United States, products are in the warehouse with Peregrine and orders in place will be fulfilled. Retailers are encouraged to ring Macpac in Christchurch by dialing 866-548-6505 with any questions. All that said, we would hate to see the U.S. market suffer a hiccup in service. Macpac has invested heavily (meaning income is currently far outstripped by expenses, we would suspect) since 2004 and just now the company is realizing success. Five years is an appropriate cycle for any international brand to invest before returns begin to be realized. Currently, the brand has 40 to 50 specialty retailers supporting it, and is set to launch with both Backcountry.com and EMS -- both very strong signs.
As for what Mouton Noir will be doing with both Macpac and Fairydown, we would suspect to see the Macpac line built up and played on far more strongly outside of New Zealand in all respects. Expect the company to move aggressively to open up to six stores in the next year in Australia -- likely branded Macpac. Since the company is going with a store-owned distribution model down under, we would also expect to see Macpac product become a bit broader in terms of categories than it might otherwise have been, with full offerings in technical apparel, sleeping bags, pads, tents, outerwear and packs. There may even be a few brand extensions we haven't thought of yet -- amazing what one can do and support when you don't have to worry about what others will carry and worry only about what your own customers will buy.
And to McIntyre, our fond farewell. Thirty-five years is a grand run. You are a class act that built a great company, one that became a global brand. We think that spells success and hope the success has been justly rewarded.