A large portion of Gathr Outdoor’s product mix is for warm-weather activities, and Bill Bettencourt, outdoor segment president, sees an opportunity to expand its cold-weather product lines as the company grows.
To help with that, the company is shifting from being a one-season brand that launches once then sells through the year, to a two-season, spring and fall, brand. That makes the brand more responsive.
“It gives us an opportunity to serve our consumers and our retailers better,” Bettencourt said. “We have a good following – they appreciate the quality of our products. We can do better to meet their requirements seasonally.”
Gathr has seven brands under its umbrella: Cascadia Vehicle Tents, GCI Outdoor, Klymit, Orca, PrideSports, WaterPort, and Rightline Gear.
The Daily caught up with Bettencourt at Surf Expo in Orlando, Florida, to talk about how business is going, competing in the cooler space, and targeting the overlanding crowd.
“Bring People Together”
Founded in 2003, Gathr Outdoors has its purpose as a company built right into its name. The brand isn’t trying to help people summit Mount Everest. The goal is for its customers to have a good time hanging out.
“One of the wonderful things about Gathr Outdoors is we have a common mission across all brands,” said Bettencourt. “It’s to bring people together outdoors.”
Here’s a quick breakdown of the Gathr brands:
- Cascadia Vehicle Tents (CVT) – Roof top vehicle tents, awnings and car camping equipment for trucks and SUVs.
- GCI Outdoor – Portable outdoor chairs and accessories.
- Klymit – Sleeping pads and bags, pillows, tents, and accessories.
- Orca – Coolers, drinkware, barware, and accessories.
- PrideSports – Sport and industrial traction products, including cleats, studs, and spikes.
- WaterPort – Pressurized water tanks and accessories.
- Rightline Gear – Car top carriers.
Bettencourt said Gathr prides itself on offering accessible brands, but not necessarily technical equipment.
“We’re not talking top of the mountain,” he said, adding that Gathr defines the “outdoors” as a beach, a river, a sporting event, tailgating, dispersed camping, or a backyard barbecue.
Gathr has experienced the same broad industry issues that have been common this year, including high amounts of inventory among the retailers it works with.
Bettencourt said the company has managed to work through some of that on the strength of the brand.
“Our retail sell-throughs have been good,” he added. “The rate that the brands are selling is what we would anticipate under any conditions. It’s a function of managing the business properly. We feel like we’re in really good shape.”
Orca Focus on the South
Orca, also known as the Outdoor Recreation Company of America, was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Its hard-sided coolers are made in the United States.
Throughout the history of the company, the brand has viewed itself as a Southern U.S. company. Marketing materials reference symbols of the South such as sweet tea and country music.
“Our marketing focuses on Nashville,” Bettencourt said. “Country music fits into the branding in terms of who we might want to sponsor and how we want to be seen in the marketplace.”
The idea, Bettencourt added, is to think of an Orca cooler as re-creating that Nashville experience of good food and music.
The Southern marketing also differentiates Orca from the giant in the space, Yeti, which historically targeted serious fishermen and hunters then evolved into something of a lifestyle brand.
“We’re taking a slightly different approach,” Bettencourt said. “Our lifestyle is going to be much more distinct to celebrating what’s great about the South.”
Other ways Orca is setting itself apart: A barware line and a propriety closure system for its soft-sided coolers.
“Yeti’s the big monster,” Bettencourt said. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t have little monsters out there.”
GCI Outdoor Leans on Engineering
GCI was started by an engineer, and the original rocking chair mechanism that the company is known for is a product of that engineering acumen.
“What they want to do is solve problems,” Bettencourt said.
A new example of that is the LevrUp Canopy, which is designed to allow one person to set up and break down a canopy without extra help.
The brand is also working on more products that solve problems, including making transporting its products easier.
Also new for GCI is a hyper-focus on consumer type. The company is going to start adding graphics to its products that say, for example, this chair is for camping, or this is for a sideline activity like watching a soccer match, Bettencourt said.
At the Surf Expo show, GCI launched a chair in collaboration with Guy Harvey that is clearly intended to be used at the beach.
Bettencourt said the growing overlanding category is important for Gathr across all of its brands.
“It’s where people are getting together outdoors,” he added. “Overlanding has become very popular.”
WaterPort is a good example of that. Overlanders can bring their shower with them and make camping a little more comfortable, Bettencourt said.
The Klymit brand with its sleeping camp products and CVT with rooftop tents are also benefiting from the boom in overlanding.
“It’s an important category for us,” Bettencourt said.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at email@example.com.