Gelert, the British outdoor and camping equipment company, is preparing to ramp up investments in marketing and distribution after it entirely reshaped its management in the last few months, with the firm support of its bankers. The moves come after a few tumultuous months, which altered Gelert's ownership, but reinforced its financial situation.
As part of the structural changes at the company, Gelert has moved its head office from north Wales to Widnes, near Liverpool. The payroll was reduced from more than 150 employees a couple of years ago to about 75 after the move. The company had to cut costs after it suffered a loss of nearly £4 million (€5.1m-$6.2m) on sales of about £30 million (€38.2m-$46.7m) in 2011. The issues partly stemmed from the end of a deal with Go Outdoors, a large-scale British retailer for which Gelert was sourcing private label products. Another issue was that Gelert had widely diversified its business, adding several side brands and selling products from bicycles to helmets.
Steve Bracewell, a former head of K-Swiss in Europe, was hired to replace Mick Weldon as Gelert's managing director. Ian Watson, former head of sales at K-Swiss in the U.K., was appointed U.K. business director at Gelert. Furthermore, Gelert has hired Steve Stretch, who will be joining in October in the new function of global sales director. He will switch from Vango, another leading British camping equipment company, where he was U.K. and European sales director. Another newcomer is John Clarkson, who has been appointed as head of product development.
The product range has been rationalized, to focus only on the Gelert brand, which enjoys very strong awareness among British consumers and commands an estimated 34 percent share in the U.K. camping equipment market. Based on the results of consumer research ordered by the new team and conducted by Pragma, a fresh brand identity will be introduced to consumers next year, around the tagline ”Outdoors Made Easy.”
Gelert is budgeting sales of roughly £26 million (€33.1m-€40.5m) this year, with about 25 percent of that coming from European countries other than the U.K. and Ireland. Sales in continental Europe are steered from an office in the Netherlands, which will be given the means to invest more in a few targeted markets. The investments will start in Germany, where Gelert is currently sold by an agent, and continue in France, Italy and Spain. While Gelert is already working in all of these markets, it is searching for partners in several Scandinavian and East European countries. The plan calls for the company to return to profit as of next year.
The restart comes after several turbulent months for Gelert. The business is still owned by Bryncir Products, a company that was controlled by Gelert's founder, Alistair Langdon. In January, Langdon sold all of his shares in Bryncir to a dealmaker, Jason Granite, who was also briefly the owner of Yeoman's, the British outdoor retailer. He approached Bryncir's bankers, led by HSBC, with a proposal for a restructuring plan, involving the writeoff of significant amounts of debt. HSBC rejected the plan and called in its loans instead, leading Bryncir into receivership. Talks are ongoing between the bank and the receiver, Grant Thornton, to implement a debt-for-equity swap that would place Bryncir's shares into the hands of some of its managers and HSBC. None of this is affecting the operations of Gelert itself, which is not in bankruptcy proceedings and is firmly supported by HSBC – allowing for the company's investments.