On the heels of a recent acquisition of Colorado-based Mountain Sprouts, Mountain Khakis has announced it will be launching MK Kids, a line of Mountain Khakis-inspired, durable wardrobe staples for children, at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market.
The new MK line was developed with input from Jen Taylor, founder of Mountain Sprouts, a line of technical outdoor apparel for children. Mountain Sprouts will remain a unique brand under the Mountain Khakis LLC header.
MK Kids will debut with six SKUs, making up a tight product mix of canvas pants and shorts for boys, and twill shorts and pants for both boys and girls. The product line will also feature many of the signature features that make Mountain Khakis so popular with adults, according to Mac Lackey, founding partner of Mountain Khakis.
Features will include riveted metal buttons, grosgrain trims, triple stitching and reinforced cuffs. Also incorporated into the line is the signature customizable sizing feature that made Mountain Sprouts so popular with parents buying for their active outdoor families, said Lackey.
"Jen is a world class find in a small company," Lackey told us. "We began taking notice of her brand early on during our first year at the Outdoor Retailer show. It became clear to us that while the brand was not as big as some, many of the folks who attend Outdoor Retailer were going to Mountain Sprouts to get stuff for their own kids."
When we asked Lackey why he felt a drive to launch a new line in an already very competitive, but quite small market, he cited the company's own launch.
"Looking at the kids' market felt a lot like our initial view of the pants market," said Lackey. "If you looked at pants when we launched, it would appear the category was not exactly on fire. But after looking at other brands in the outdoor space, it became our belief that the product being offered was not right, and the programs and marketing were not right.
"With kids' clothing, if feels very much the same as when we arrived at Outdoor Retailer in 2005 with a new company and a three pant styles -- the right kids' offering has not yet been put on the table," said Lackey. "With MK brand in particular, our ability to drive into the kid's market using a proven brand will help. We know our retailers want this and our customers want it."
Lackey notes that MK Kids will be a premium price-point offering, meaning retailers will be able to differentiate the product because of MK's unique styling, and make money selling it because of the margins.
MK Kids is also targeting the travel market, according to Lackey. And while that strategy might raise a few eyebrows -- as in what, exactly, do kids' clothes have to do with travel? -- Lackey points out that the adventure travel market means families shopping.
"In our pants line already we are addressing the best in adventure travel, and we believe the same is true in the kids' market. Families are taking big trips and taking their kids with them and gearing up the whole family," said Lackey. "Our product offers them pants that will address more than the needs of the trip. It can also be worn well for daily play, which provides a market need."
Lackey told SNEWS® that the company will use feedback from Summer Market to finalize the product and merchandising programs before it begins shipping product to retailers in February 2008.
SNEWS® View: Hard to argue with success. Mountain Khakis pants have become very recognizable wear at Outdoor Retailer trade shows and numerous other outdoor events. Lackey and company have created a product that has both a unique look and incredible durability -- rather like a favorite pair of jeans. We suspect that with the right packaging of product and marketing, and MK has proven it can do just that, we might have an outdoor version of Osh Kosh. Grandma bait? You bet. Margin dollars for retailers who take the time to merchandise and sell the product? Certainly. Popular with kids and parents seeking to blend style with playful durability and function? Remains to be seen, but we suspect likely. With Taylor from Mountain Sprouts on board, and the existing talent at Mountain Khakis, it's hard to think the launch of MK Kids will be any different from the 2005 launch of Mountain Khakis -- packed booth and lots of buzz.