Northern Playground wants to be a transparent company because we believe that a transparent company is more responsible. Openness makes us more conscious and hopefully it also makes you, as a consumer, more likely to make conscious choices. There is no doubt that the future of business will be more transparent than the business culture we grew up with. We will be here to cheer this development on, and I hope you find that valuable.
With this in mind, we have summarised a few of our ups, downs and challenges in the past year.
Team: At the moment we are 4 (and a half) employees in Northern Playground. For me as the founder, the team is only now getting to the level of professionalism we need. There is no denying that we have had our challenges the first years, but now the product-line is significantly improved, the logistics are working, we are reaching more people etc. In other words, we are ready for anything the world might throw at us.
Revenue: In 2017 Northern Playground made 4,1 million NOK in revenue. That's approximately an 80% growth compared to 2016. This growth demands big investments and we are still in the red. Investments and loans make up for the deficit.
Production cost: A lasting economic challenge is our production cost. We manufacture in Europe with quality textiles. It has it's costs, and in the end we make less than our competitors. However, we chose this way of doing things for a reason. Manufacturing in Europe gives us increased control that eases the process of product-innovation for us considerably. We are setting up the organisation this way to limit time from idea to finished product. We also have increased control over workers conditions and that environmental aspects with production in Europe.
Online sales: A positive development in 2017 is increased sales through our website. Of course, our margins on the website are better than selling through a retailer. With decent margins on our sales, we can keep high quality of each product without having to increase prices considerably.
Switching manufacturer: A huge challenge in the 16/17 season was a faulty line of Ziplongs with a malfunction in the fabric. Many customers have been frustrated by lacking quality of product, not the mention our own frustration and time spent on the issue. We hope that everyone with a faulty product has received a replacement, and that you will forgive us .
This summer we switched manufacturer to Lithuanian Utenos. They are an industry-leader on environmentally conscious production and has simultaneously improved the quality of our products.
Environmentally friendly textiles: We also spent time finding more environmentally friendly alternatives to a few of our textiles. Specifically the Zipshorts Padded and the Ziplongs Microfleece. Presently, the textiles are recycled and in that way they are sustainable, but in the last couple of years we have learned that fleece-products emit micro-plastics when being washed. Some fleece-products emit more than others, but they all do to some degree. We are searching for alternatives, and hopefully the industry will come up with some good ones. In the meantime; don't wash your fleece-products more than necessary. (Stay tuned, we soon have news on this subject.)
Internationalisation: After quite a bit of trial and error, 2017 was the first year that we could celebrate international expansion for real. Americans got a taste of Norwegian innovation, and our partner www.backcountry.com sold out within weeks when they launched our brand in November.
New concept: 2017 was also the year in which we launched the "Organic Collection". We have thought about launching a more "conventional" product-line than Zipwear for a long time, but we weren't able to until we got our hands on the right wool- and silk quality. We love the products, and so do more and more of our customers.
(If you're curious, we are also launching 3 brand new products in 2018.)
More than just skiing: Northen Playground is often associated with skiing, and specifically mountaineering. In 2017 we broadened our marketing-horizon, especially towards sailing and kayak. It's amazing to see that our product-philosophy is reaching all kinds of outdoor-people.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of what is going on in Northern Playground. Don't be afraid to give us feedback at Jo@northernplayground.no. Without feedback we can't improve.
Jo Egil Tobiassen
Founder and CEO