Hi. Every once in a while I, founder and CEO of Northern Playground, send out letters giving you an honest peak behind the scenes of the company. We believe that openness is an essential part of being a responsible contributor to society. This is the sixth letter. Read my previous letters here.
Team: At the moment, Northern Playground consists of 4 (and a half) employees. As the founder, it feels like the team is just 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 produce 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. With European production we also have increased control over the workers conditions and the environmental impacts.
Online sales: A positive development in 2017 is increased sales through our website. Of course, our margins are better when selling on our website than when selling to retailers. With decent margins we can keep the quality of each product high without having to increase prices considerably.
Switching manufacturers: A huge challenge in the 16/17 season was a faulty line of Ziplongs® with a fabric malfunction. Many customers have been frustrated by the product's bad quality, not to mention our own frustration and time spent on resolving the issue. We hope that everyone with a faulty product has received a replacement, and that you will forgive us. This summer we switched manufacturers to Lithuanian Utenos. They are an industry leader when it comes to environmentally conscious production, and have 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. As of now the textiles are recycled and in that way sustainable, but in the last couple of years we have learned that fleece products emit microplastics 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 quality – organic wool and silk. We love the products, and so do more and more of our customers.
(If you're curious, we are also launching three brand new products in 2018.)
More than just skiing: Northen Playground is often associated with skiing, and specifically ski touring. In 2017 we broadened our marketing-horizon, especially towards sailing and kayaking. 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 email@example.com. Without feedback we can't get better.