Helinox, a South Korean supplier of light-weight camping furniture, has started building a team to handle its own European sales from the start of this month, from an office in Paris and a warehouse in Rotterdam.
The company is most famous in the outdoor industry for its Helinox Chair One, but it sells a broader range of lightweight camping furniture and trekking poles. The company is a spin-off of DAC Poles, a manufacturer of camping poles, which is already handling its own business in Asia and North America. Helinox was given a Gold Award at the Outdoor Industry Award this year for its Chair Zero, which tips the scales at just 490 grams.
Helinox products have been distributed around Europe in the last five years by Nigor Net. This Dutch company holds the European license for Eureka, a brand of tents owned by the Johnson Outdoors group. Nigor Net handles the product development, production and distribution of the Eureka brand in Europe, and in 2014 it expanded its offering with high-end lightweight tents and packs under the Nigor brand.
Nigor Net established a distribution network for the Helinox brand in nearly all European countries. The company says it has consistently achieved annual double-digit sales growth for the brand, which is being sold in about 600 European stores this year. Nigor Net added that, with its experience in lightweight furniture, it started developing its own patented lightweight range under the Nigor brand. The Dutch group is working with Olsun, another South Korean manufacturer specializing in poles, to get a range ready from November.
In charge in Paris is Daniel Hartung, who has become European sales director for Helinox. He is the owner of Hartung Paris, a creative agency for brand and design intelligence, which has worked with brands such as Titleist, Billabong, Puma and Dior.
Helinox wants to hire sales managers for some of the largest European markets, starting with Germany, the U.K., Scandinavia and the Benelux countries, while the French market will be covered from the Paris office. The plan is to cover each of these markets directly, instead of working with distributors, in order to move faster and with more interesting margins.
While continuing to focus on the outdoor market, Helinox intends to more strongly target retail distribution in other categories, such as home furniture and lifestyle. It could seal one-off partnerships with other stakeholders in these categories to help spread the Helinox brand. Its largest markets so far are in South Korea, Japan and the U.S.