(This story was updated on 4/13/2023.)
Colorado-based Topo Designs announced yesterday it received a significant equity investment from Gart Capital Partners, a family investment company with industry roots that is also headquartered in Colorado.
Terms of the funding were not disclosed. This is the first outside funding the business has taken since it began in 2008.
In 2022, Topo Design’s total revenue grew over 30%, and the brand is projecting strong double-digit growth in 2023.
According to Topo Designs co-founder Jedd Rose, the company wants to use the money from Gart to help expand its retail presence.
Expanding Retail Footprint
Leveraging Gart Capital’s expertise in outdoor retail, the brand hopes to expand its brick-and-mortar retail footprint, as well as bolster its wholesale channel.
Topo Designs products are sold in over 30 countries across six continents with wholesale distribution to 1,200 stores, including specialty outdoor and independent lifestyle shops, as well as retailers such as REI, Backcountry and others.
The company owns and operates five branded retail stores in Colorado: one in Fort Collins, two in Denver and two in Denver International Airport.
Rose said in an interview with The Daily that focusing on brick-and-mortar may sound counterintuitive, but the brand tends to do well in smaller retail locations where sales associates can talk about the products.
Topo Designs also uses its data from online ordering to decide what locations to dedicate resources to and identify a complementary interest level and demographic.
For example, the company’s Fort Collins location helps drive its e-commerce sales and is one of the top 10 cities globally for orders.
“That really has a lot to do with that retail presence in town,” Rose said.
As the funding comes in, Topo Designs expects to expand retail programs, sustainable product innovations, and nonprofit and community-based partnerships.
The company also plans to focus heavily on customer acquisition across direct-to-consumer channels in the U.S. market.
To drive its growth, the brand spent recent years investing in key leadership hires, including Matt Williams, who joined as chief operating officer from Exxel Outdoors; Rachelle Thurik, director of marketing, formerly from Nike Inc.; Sean Han, who joined as director of sales from Spyder; and Christy Bailey, director of product overseeing sustainable design innovation, formerly with Pact Apparel.
Targeting the Young Adults
Another goal for Topo Designs is to make getting outside less intimidating.
“If you aren’t super skilled at an activity and don’t have all the gear and the means to get out in the middle of nowhere to go do it, it’s really intimidating to get involved with that,” Rose said.
“What we really want to expand is the notion of being outdoors.”
As an example, Rose said his company is designing apparel for consumers who may want to just go fishing in their local creek or pond, then wear that gear and go about their lives.
“You can actually do a lot of those traditional activities, but in an area that’s really close to you,” Rose said. “It can be quickly integrated into your life very easily.”
Topo Designs is calling its newly funded initiative The New Outdoor.
The investment from Gart will help the company connect more people to its mission.
“In Topo Designs, we saw a unique opportunity to invest in a differentiated outdoor brand with unmatched authenticity and credibility, as well as a strong mission dedicated to helping all people explore and enjoy the outdoors, however it is that they define it,” said Alex Gart, a partner at Gart Capital, in a release.
The brand is specifically targeting young Millennials and Gen Z consumers, which the company says are “values-driven and seek out products that avoid limits to function, individuality, creativity, and style.”
These customers are considering their closet space and environmental footprint. They also value aesthetics, according to the company.
Rose said this age group has shown interest in products that they can wear outdoors but also have traditional lifestyle components so they can go to work or school wearing them.
“Most of our products are really built with that same mindset that we want them to do as much for the consumer as possible,” he added.
Gone are the days when one specific activity such as fishing or skiing defines someone, according to Rose.
“This group does all that stuff and more,” he added.
Rose could see his consumers wearing Topo Designs’ apparel to restaurants and music venues as well as on a hike.
“The more we can have a product that really just follows them around wherever they are, whatever they want to do, functions in all those environments, will last and has a great sustainability story around it – that really resonates with them,” he added.
Bart Schaneman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.