While rumors have been circulating that the Woods Canada brand has met its end, David Earthy, president and managing director of Woods Canada, told SNEWS® that the rumors are not true. While the Canadian manufacturer of outdoor gear will close its Toronto factory and cease manufacturing this month, the Woods Canada brand will continue through a licensing agreement with Canadian Tire Corp.
Canadian Tire operates about 460 stores across Canada, selling a variety of products, including automotive parts and sports and leisure products.
Unfortunately for Woods Canada, it appears that some of the company's own former employees played a hand in spreading the rumors to the industry that the brand was dead.
"A number of my own people decided to talk to the trade, using their own words for what was happening, and the summary they were using was that Woods Canada was closing," Earthy told SNEWS®. "The reality is that Woods Canada has a very important, active and strong licensing agreement with Canadian Tire Corp., which holds about a 45-percent market share in the camping markets in Canada. That agreement goes back to 2001 and continues enthusiastically through today and into the future."
Also, there's a possibility that Woods Canada will proceed as much more than a licensed brand. "We are well advanced in discussions with a reputable North American camping equipment company for the extension and revitalization of the Woods Canada line for independent retailers in Canada, the United States and elsewhere," Earthy said. "That’s something I hope within a month to be able to (make) a press announcement on.
"Woods will be continuing in a different form. The Toronto-based company will become virtual in its existence in that it won't have any bricks, mortar or employees, but Woods Canada as a brand and a group of products in the marketplace will definitely be continuing."
While the rumors of the company's demise have just started circulating, the closure of the plant was foretold almost a year ago. According to Earthy, the company decided on Nov. 1, 2005, to close the plant in Toronto and release all employees, which included 35 factory workers and 10 office personnel. Earthy said that in November 2005 all employees were given preliminary notice that by Sept. 30, 2006, manufacturing would cease.
Earthy said that the cost of manufacturing in Canada made a major impact on the financial health of the company, and it was unable to move manufacturing overseas. He added, "The Canadian dollar had risen against the U.S., which made us less competitive in the U.S. There was a consolidation of retail in Canada, with the independent dealers becoming a smaller percentage of the whole, and the mass merchants, led by Canadian Tire Corp., were becoming bigger." Plus, Earthy said, "We had become tired and outdated."
The Woods Canada company has had a long history. James W. Wood launched the company in 1885 to manufacture outdoor gear and clothing in Canada’s Ottawa Valley. At first, Woods Canada customers were lumbermen, surveyors and prospectors. By the early 1900s the company was supplying explorers for international expeditions, and Woods Canada went on to serve as a major military supplier during the Boer war, the Korean conflict, World War I and World War II.