Fenix Outdoor International is acquiring Royal Robbins, the American brand of travel and outdoor garments, to complement an apparel offering that is led by the Fjällräven brand. The acquisition will be consolidated in the second quarter.
The seller is Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co (BRS), a private equity firm from New York that bought Royal Robbins from the Kellwood Company in 2012. The sale to the Fenix group was agreed at an undisclosed price and the buyer said it would not impact its key financial figures in any material way this year.
Fenix is the owner of the Fjällräven, Tierra, Hanwag, Primus and Brunton brands, along with leading outdoor retailers in four European countries, from Globetrotter in Germany to Naturkompaniet in Sweden, Partioaitta in Finland and Friluftsland in Denmark, which was acquired last year.
The formally Swiss and Swedish-based group explains that the Royal Robbins brand neatly complements its apparel brands. While Fjällräven is most strongly associated with hiking and rugged outdoor activities, Royal Robbins focuses on travel and adventure, with a large share of female buyers. It has loyal customers who want garments for light outdoor activities and travel, with technical details but without the appearance of outdoor garments. They are most likely to be middle-aged women who appreciate a relatively ample fit, inconspicuous colors and comfortable fabrics.
The brand was established in 1968 by Liz and Royal Robbins, who were pioneering rock climbers in Yosemite. They were said to have established the brand after their ascent of the Half Dome in 1967, wearing cutoff khakis and jeans. She stayed as an adviser after he passed away in March last year. Royal Robbins has been run since 2015 by Michael Millenacker, who previously worked for brands including Eagle Creek and The North Face.
By far the largest share of the Royal Robbins brand's turnover comes from the North American market. The Fenix group has been expanding rapidly in this market in recent years, fueled by demand for the Fjällräven brand, although the expansion slowed down in 2017. The turnover of the Fenix group's brands division and its global sales division combined in North America reached €51.7 million in 2017, up by 8.2 percent. The group has yet to provide any details on the potential integration of Royal Robbins with Fjällräven North America, in Colorado.
Royal Robbins has a distribution agreement for the European market with Bradshaw Taylor, a leading British outdoor distribution company. The supervision of the brand's business in Europe is split between Chloe Ticehurst in the U.K. and Wolfgang Jahn in Germany, the country manager for Royal Robbins in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. It remains unclear how this partnership with Bradshaw Taylor might be impacted by the acquisition by the Fenix group, which has a strong sales infrastructure for its brands around Europe. Fenix managers are apparently preparing to hold talks with Corrie Taylor after the Easter weekend.
About three years ago Bradshaw Taylor embarked on a renewed effort to raise the Royal Robbins brand's sales in the European market, with a range more aligned to the requirements of European consumers. Europe then made up about 10 percent of the Royal Robbins brand's sales, down from 15 percent a decade earlier, and with a target to reach a share of 20 percent in three to four years.
Jahn is based at an office and showroom near Stuttgart to support European sales for Royal Robbins as well as Sherpa Adventure Gear. Bradshaw Taylor covers the market with a combination of agents and direct sales to customers including Naturkompaniet and Friluftsland.
Asia is another regional market where the Fenix group has several partnerships while the Royal Robbins brand has little exposure so far.