January 18th, 2023
Below is yet another letter from one of us NP employees. As usual, unfiltered and straight from the heart. This time our founder Jo takes a look back at the peculiar year that was 2022.
Our big hairy audacious goal is to create a model where we sell products, and at the same time help our customers reduce their total consumption. There are many hurdles in our way, and we are continously trying to find our path throughout the endless paradoxes. Three highlights in ths area last year were:
- Our care and repair festival, Last Week. We repaired hundreds of garments and other products, and plastered Oslo with messages telling people to buy less.
- We appointed discounts as one of the biggest enemies of our time. Discounts are in many ways the main contributor to overconsumption. Because of smart sales campaigns, most of us buy things we don't really need. We believe that it is impossible to talk about sustainability and sell products at a discounted price simultaniously, and wrote about it in Norwegian outlets DN and Kampanje. (When the market is down it is very tempting to use discounts to get rid of inventory. That's what "everyone" does. I can promise you that avoiding that temptation is extremely challenging, but we will always stay true to our brand and principles.)
- We were given Oslo's environmental award. The jury highlighted our innovative business model that is built around reducing consumption. Got to be proud of that!
While we might be the clothing brand that takes sustainability the farthest, we definitely aren't perfect. I believe that progress starts by acknowledging that you can do better. Right now we are working on a list of sustainable improvements. It will of course be published.
Northern Playground has always been known for wool underwear. That will always be a big part of the company, but in 2022 we spent lots of time discussing what's next. The short story is that we will develop (almost) every clothing item you need. You'll have to rent a tux elsewhere, but this year you will discover multiple products with less of an outdoorsy feel (that you can still wear on a hike, obviously). Read the longer story (our design philosophy) here.
We are currently a team of ten. Nine full-time and one part-time. And I can't repeat enough how well we work together and how much we get done. We also laugh all the time and are great at going on trips and throwing parties. What more could one ask for? In addition we added 600 new co-owners around our campfire this year, who have already proven to be an arsenal of supporting players.
As usual, there is one area that we aren't that great at: diversity. Eight out of ten employees are women, and so is our chair(wo)man. I am convinced that the world would be a better place if more women were in influential positions, but now it's time for us to try and balance things out.
A surprise last year was how important our shop in Oslo has become. It stood for 25% of our total revenue, and is the place where we repair and host parties and festivals. It is already clear that we need to move. The store is too small and can't hold all of the plans we have for the future. In 2024 we will move to a different location in Oslo, and will soon be needing a new store manager to make everything go smoothly. Check out the available position here.
Deciding whether 2022 was a good or bad year economically isn't very easy. In general, the industry is down from the Covid record year of 2021. Nonetheless, we had about 15% growth with a revenue of just over 20 million NOK. At the same time we put tons of resources into growing our team, new marketing and product development. In other words, we had planned for a much higher revenue. Higher production costs and marketing prices have also been negative factors. Thus a similar result: Below zero by a lot.
Our crowdfunding campaign in May where we received 16 million NOK in ten days was definitely the economic highlight of the year. This has given us new energy in hundreds of different ways. For better or for worse, most of it is bound up in our inventory today.
As usual, we performed some scary stunts last year. We nagged H&M, Sophie Elise and anyone else that greenwashes and claims that they produce sustainable products. We asked everyone we met to buy less. We carried out a huge crowdfunding campaign and hosted a festival. But did it work?
In November we measured our brand awareness. 14% of Norway's population had heard of us, but what's even cooler is that 2% of the population named Northern Playground as Norway's most sustainable clothing company (unsolicited). For Oslo the numbers are 24% and 5%. That's awesome, and we obviously still have a long way to go.
We have two main projects planned for 2023:
- Break up with Facebook. OK, realistically this probably won't happen this year. But we have to start somewhere. Our plan is to build a model where we don't pay Facebook or other tech giants for ads. To make that happen, we need to get people talking about us and help people share our message. Growing through the grapevine is hard, but we have a plan.
- Get a black belt in circular economy. We already have an advantage because we are focused on the most important thing; creating products that are worn for a long time and thus create less waste. But we still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to what happens after the products are worn out. In addition we need to find out if and how much we contribute to reducing consumption.
2022 was hard. War, inflation and an energy crisis have affected all of us. Production is suddenly much more expensive. People have less money. 2023 will most likely be brutal. But when the going gets tough we just have to work a harder and smarter, and really show the world that we're different. That is our plan.
Have a great year! Let's hope it brings peace and more people that contribute to calming down the consumption hysteria.
Jo and the rest of team NP