Implus, the American group selling a gaggle of accessories for the sports and footwear markets, is moving further into the European outdoor market this year. The investments come four years after Implus made a commitment to the European market by buying its French distributor, Eurosphere, and turning its operation into a European head office.
Implus has been consistently developing through acquisitions in the recent years, putting together a portfolio of a dozen brands. The largest of them is Sof Sole, a range of insoles and shoe care products. Sof Sole is driving the group's expansion along with Perfect fitness equipment and Yaktrax, a brand of ice traction devices and hand warmers. Yaktrax belongs to Implus' outdoor division, which further comprises Icetrekkers (traction devices for footwear, mostly sold in outdoor stores), Little Hotties (hand and body warmers) and DryGuy.
The Implus group completed ten acquisitions in eight years. In June it bought Fit Deck, selling fitness cards that make exercise more convenient and entertaining. In August it added DryGuy, a supplier of footwear dryers and thermal layering systems, which was integrated into the company's outdoor division. Acquisitions should continue unabated next year. Implus is targeting small to mid-sized companies in accessories, in the areas of outdoor, fitness and footwear.
With over 20 employees and a warehouse of 5,000 square meters, the French office does not carry all of the Implus group's brands, instead focusing on Sof Sole, Yaktrax, Perfect Fitness, Air Plus, Icetrekkers, Little Hotties and Sneaker Balls. The products mostly target sporting goods, footwear and outdoor stores, as well as hypermarkets.
Implus said its European sales have grown roughly tenfold since it acquired Eurosphere, to make up about 10 percent of its turnover. Implus wants that share to increase to about 20 to 25 percent in the next three to five years. Implus' European sales are estimated in the range of €10 million for the fiscal year until the end of March and the group is on track to reach €15 million for the current year. The outdoor division makes up about 15 percent of European sales.
The Implus office in France started by working with distributors but it has been moving toward agents and direct deliveries in some large markets in an effort to harmonize sales and marketing efforts. The increased focus on the outdoor market came after the recruitment of Hamish Ogilvie, formerly at Granger's. He joined last year as a sales director dedicated to the outdoor market, in the U.K. and with international accounts. Implus said that this enabled the company to start delivering to Blacks and Go Outdoors this year. When it comes to Germany, Implus decided earlier this year to team up with Lars Kutter from Sportsnwear as an exclusive agent, and to put more focus on the country.
Based in North Carolina, Implus started in 1988 as Impact Plus, selling mail order insoles. For several years it built up its business around its own brands, Sof Sole, Sof Comfort, Airplus and Apara, selling insoles as well as shoe-care products, laces, performance and fashion socks. It went on the acquisition trail and moved into the outdoor market in 2006 by buying Yaktrax.
Implus has been owned since November 2011 by Trilantic Capital Partners, in partnership with management.