Red Oxx exits fitness: blames foreign outsourcing

After 18 years specializing in manufacturing and selling weight-training accessories, Red Oxx has bid adieu to fitness to focus on its developing adventure travel gear division, placing the blame partly on foreign competition.
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After 18 years specializing in manufacturing and selling weight-training accessories, Red Oxx has bid adieu to fitness to focus on its developing adventure travel gear division, placing the blame partly on foreign competition.

Co-founder and CEO Jim Markel told SNEWS® that he can't and won't compete with the cheaper product produced and brought in from outside the United States. Red Oxx, which had 120 retail customers and has done OEM product for the largest equipment manufacturers in the industry, has always focused on high-quality synthetic gear such as bar pads, belts and wrist wraps.

"After attending the last Health & Fitness expo and seeing off-shore-manufactured products domineering, it was time to leave," Markel said.

In a letter to customers last week announcing the closing of the Bozeman, Mont.-based, Red Oxx weight-training division, he wrote: "Red Oxx Manufacturing, Inc. would like to thank our great dealers and loyal customers for almost 20 years of business. It has been our pleasure to be known as the finest weight-training accessories on the market."

Letting go of its weight-training segment was a difficult decision, Markel said, since that's where the company started in 1986 when he helped his dad, who was a body-builder, found the business. It wasn't until the early '90s that he began to make bags and packs as a side business.

"I have good friends in the fitness industry, and it's tough to let go," he said. "Our business was 100 percent fitness. Slowly but surely over the last 10 years, it had dropped to 75 percent of our business. But I also felt myself being pulled in two directions."

In addition to the problem of trying to compete with off-shore manufacturing, Markel also said the fitness industry had a constant churn among employees that forced him to sell himself over and over again to new buyers, plus he said he found it was more and more difficult to get paid, noting that lately some 20 percent of his accounts receivable at the end of each year went uncollected.

"We're going to miss fitness," Markel said. "It's not with some regret we leave, but it's time."

You can reach Markel and Red Oxx at www.redoxx.com or 888-733-6999.

SNEWS® View: Not that the public doesn't appreciate a lower price and not that off-shore manufacturing is a bad thing. Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater here. But as a small niche company, Red Oxx was faced with a combination of problems that are likely the bane of other small niche manufacturers: off-shore manufacturing and lower-priced competition, not getting paid because of tougher economic times, and those times leading to employee turnover and the constant and exhausting need to re-introduce and re-sell yourself. A small company has three choices: Find a way to compete by price, go off-shore yourself, or abandon the business. Markel obviously decided he didn't want to lower his standards or prices, and that's his choice -- perhaps an easier one with an ever-developing adventure travel gear business that was taking off. Fitness will miss him and the quality of Red Oxx products.

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