Ain’t no mountain high enough
Rather than any aggressive store expansion plans, Mountain Designs product developer, Sandra Heidemann, revealed that the iconic group’s focus was more so on “giving some love back” to Mountain Designs’ 42 stores in Australia.
Some of those 42 stores, such as the long-serving store in Little Burke Street in Melbourne, have been operating for more than three decades.
“We plan to spend some time and money on our pre-existing and older stores and giving them a bit of a bit of a facelift,” Heidemann told Inside Retail Weekly.
“We have this whole new look that we want to get across. But if the right locations come up, we will look at opening new stores.”
Mountain Designs, which celebrated its 40th anniversary with a three-day team building camping trip for all staff in March, is also focused on using cutting edge technology to enhance its clothing designs.
While most coffee grounds end up in landfill, Mountain Designs is reusing coffee grounds in a unique manner to develop a range of high performance jackets for outdoor wear.
“Mountain Designs has always used ethically sourced down, but we wanted to go further and not just use natural material, but reclaim and re-use waste,” explained Heidemann.
“The innovative insulation is made from a mix of recycled coffee fibre and ethically sourced down, providing outstanding comfort and warmth. The natural qualities of coffee fibre help absorb odour, which does not release until the item is washed. The result means longer wear without the smell. “Traditionally, down doesn’t dry quickly. However the coffee fibre dries very fast, which means this range will dry quicker than a traditional down jacket. The outer lining offers protection from the wind and water and 40th anniversary inner lining offers breathability and extra comfort for the wearer.”
“We are now looking at how else we can use this coffee fibre and expand on it,” Heidemann added. “We haven’t seen it used in Australian market, although we believe some US companies exploring the options.”
Heidemann outlined how the Mountain Designs’ team of in-house designers and product specialists are constantly evaluating its products and researching and testing new ways to make them more resilient, useful and comfortable in outdoor conditions.
“We are exploring many options – for example, we’ve just started investigating yarn made from crushed oyster shells,” she enthused. “Literally, anything can be turned into a yarn. It’s just then what applications can be made from it. The less dependent we are on petroleum yarn, the better our products will be for us and our customers.”
Heidemann said Mountain Designs is preparing to launch some further, unique products in the lead up to Christmas, but the team is still testing them to ensure they can do what they are meant to do.
The company is also spending a lot of time and focus on making its online experience as pleasurable and interesting as possible.
“Our online store sells internationally, but that’s mainly to our customers that travel or who are expats,” she said.
Local focus after NZ closures
Heidemann confirmed that the retailer had now closed all of its 12 stores in New Zealand after struggling in that market, which is dominated by homegrown Kiwi brands Kathmandu and Macpac.
“The New Zealand market was saturated for such a small market,” Heidemann admitted. “That’s why a lot of us have pulled out. But the Australian market has room for all of us and – even to grow. I think the outdoor market in Australia is underdone. There are heaps of avenues for growth.
“One of the differences we have over other competitors in the Australian market is that we’ve been in the business since 1975. We have the experience and have partnered with other global brands so that the customer can come in and see the best of the best. It all complements each other. Our heritage and experience gives us an edge over the other players in the field.
“Once we have solidified our base here and have worked really hard on our range of products, we may look overseas. But our focus is solely on Australia at present and making our brand strong here.”
Heidemann confirmed that the passion of Mountain Designs founder, Rick White, who died in 2005, still permeates all aspects of the group’s culture.
“His vision was to supply the best outdoor gear to the Australian public, and he was so passionate about it,” she recounted. “He himself was a mad climber. For us, that’s what we are all about – a bunch of mad passionate people who want to make good quality stuff for people to use outdoors.”
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