The weak British pound has dragged on efforts by Oase Outdoors to repeat the stellar results it achieved in 2016. The family-owned Danish supplier of tents and awnings experienced strong sales throughout 2017, particularly in Germany and the U.K., but the under-performing sterling hampered the company from growing again last year in reported terms.
In June 2016, Ratos, a 150-year-old Swedish investment company, purchased a 79 percent controlling interest in Oase from the family of Henrik Arens, who is still running the company as its chief executive. It paid about 380 million Danish kroner (€51.0m-$62.4m) for the stake, including DKK 150 million (€20.1m-$24.7m) in new equity.
According to Ratos' annual report, Oase Outdoors recorded net sales of 422 million Swedish kronor (€43.0m-$52.6m) in 2016, a 27 percent increase on the 2015 figures of SEK 333 million. On an adjusted basis, Oase contributed Ebitda of SEK 72 million (€7.3m-$9.0m), up from SEK 40 million in 2015.
In the third quarter of 2017, Oase's sales matched those of the same period in 2016 at a level of SEK 68 million (€6.9m-$8.5m), but they are likely to end up declining for the whole year. For the first nine months, Oase recorded sales of SEK 306 million (€31.2m-$38.1m), according to Ratos' interim report, down from SEK 324 million in the same period of 2016.
Ratos' investment strengthened the company financially and provided more resources for an aggressive expansion plan, which has started to be implemented. Based in the Danish town of Give, Oase Outdoors employs nearly 80 people. The products are sold in 45 markets worldwide. After the buyout of his company, Arens and key management personnel have stayed on. Together, they own around 21 percent of the company.
The aim for 2017 was for Oase Outdoors to grow further in its core European markets of Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and the U.K., as well as in its home market. Early in the year, the company recruited Dean Polic as country manager for Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Polic, who moved over from the Mammut Sports Group in April, replaced Karl Hansmann. He came with than 17 years' experience in senior marketing and sales positions. Hansmann will now focus on caravan and bus awnings, which is becoming one of the fastest-growing segments for the company.
Furthermore, Oase Outdoors recently signed up a new agent for Spain, Vertical Sports, taking the place of Outdoor Representaciones. It is seeking to hire additional sales representatives in Germany and other countries. Germany proved to be the strongest growth market for Oase last year.
Inflatable caravan awnings have been the standout product for the group in all core markets. The company's management believes that a strong consumer shift has occurred away from traditional caravan awnings toward pole-free inflatable awnings. It has been driven by a growing number of caravan owners who want to undertake more touring holidays rather than pitch themselves at one location for long periods or the entire summer.
Oase Outdoors has three strong independent brands - Outwell, Easy Camp and Robens - each catering to a different target audience. Outwell aims at family camping, which has experienced significant growth in recent years and now accounts for approximately 70 percent of the business. Also experiencing growth, especially in the U.K., are products aimed at the “glamping” market, the glamorous camping that we reported on in a recent issue (The Compass Vol. 10 N° 19 of Oct. 3, 2017).
The Robens brand, which Oase acquired from Klaus Robens in Germany in the year 2000, is more associated with rugged trekking products, although its retro polycotton teepee tents are proving popular with campers who would rather make a statement and be comfortable than settle in for a long hike.
Robens has just launched a new Lite range of three tents that are easy to pack and pitch, weighing between 830 grams and 1.17 kilos. They use a special ripstop polyester fabric that has been siliconized on both sides to make it hydrostatic.
Easy Camp is the group's low-cost brand of tents, addressing mainly people who seek first experiences in camping or who only occasionally seek relief from stress and the family in the outdoor. It is mainly sold in the mass market, but also in outdoor specialty stores in Eastern Europe.
In a statement made after its acquisition of the group, Ratos noted the high potential for growth within the trekking and family camping segments. Product innovation and a growing desire of consumers for close-to-nature experiences are seen as factors that will continue to drive demand.