Watershed USA, the majority shareholder of Nikwax USA, the Everett, Wash.-based, distributor of Nikwax Waterproofing products to the North American market for the past 11 years, has decided to diversify and begin offering fulfillment and back-office support to interested outdoor industry vendors.
Mike Curtis, general manager of Watershed, told SNEWSÂ®, "We have gotten so efficient at what we are doing and have the capacity and warehouse space to take on other things, so we decided it was time to revisit our business strategy. Our core strength is in the distribution channel and we felt that we could capitalize on our market knowledge by offering a service that goes beyond the typical 'pick-and-pack' fulfillment operations.
"We are able to customize complete back-office operations for companies, as well as provide warehousing and a very efficient delivery system which will be of great value, we think, to a variety of companies," Curtis added.
What kind of companies does Curtis feel are ideally suited to take advantage of what Watershed offers?
"Any small company really, from start-ups to a company outside the U.S. that wants to access the market without undertaking all the associate risks of committing to buying or leasing warehouse space, computer systems, accounting packages and more," he said.
Curtis is working on a possible deal with an international company right now, which, for a variety of reasons, felt it could not enter the market with a standard distribution arrangement -- one that in some cases could cost as much as 40 percent to 50 percent and consequently wipe out any margin of profit.
"The company will be looking to set up their own sales force here, but we provide the perfect solution in terms of providing warehouse space, handling customer service, dealing with invoicing and accounts payable needs, payroll, inventory management and more," Curtis said.
One company, Outpac Designs, manufacturer of PacSafe travel products, turned to Watershed in February after six years of relatively successful U.S. operations.
The reason? According to Magnus McGlashan of Outpac, the company determined that Watershed would be able to provide a better level of customer service than it had been delivering while cutting Outpac's operating overhead, leaving the company to focus on what it does best -- R&D and production.
While Curtis is actively seeking new companies to work with, he states firmly that his company remains fully focused on the outdoor industry.
"We did have a proposal from one company to handle the bobblehead line, and said no to that," Curtis said. "We will look at each company on a case-by-case basis with a very clear direction that the business be outdoor industry related."
SNEWSÂ® View: While it is possible to get the idea that the Watershed team has been spending afternoons playing Hacky Sack in the parking lot and the management team is doing this to find more work to keep them busy, don't be fooled. Curtis says the team is plenty busy and that this shift to expand the business model is a result of realizing the company had the ability and resources to take on more. As such, this is a solid move and a great idea. Watershed has a wonderful reputation in the industry as a company that offers superb customer service, and works and plays well with retailers -- meaning it ships what it says it will ship when it says it will ship it. We suspect that this move into a more innovative and unique model of offering support to smaller companies will garner it quite a bit of additional business. While we know of quite a few fulfillment-only houses, Curtis' approach takes the level of service well beyond and that is refreshing, especially for an industry that places so much weight on relationships and quality of service -- at least historically.