The Evolution of THLETE | THLETE Whitetail Deer Hunting
Oct 21st 2019
We announced the acquisition of Thlete on July 9, 2019. Since that date, we have been immersed in a myriad of activities intended to build our brand and position Thlete for accelerated growth. We have done so during a busy time of the year for the whitetail hunter. Balancing pre-season food plot preparations and planting, stand placement and maintenance and pre-season scouting and camera placement with running the day-to-day operations of the Thlete business and undertaking the necessary actions to position Thlete for future growth has not been easy, but it has been highly rewarding. We knew when we acquired Thlete that it would entail a long-term mission to build a high growth, performance-based hunting apparel brand, and we committed to keep our customers updated on our progress toward that goal.
Immediately following the closing, we had our attorneys undertake the necessary filings with the Patent and Trademark Office to perfect our copyright on our proprietary “Dead Fall” camouflage pattern and the trademarks associated with the Thlete brand. In addition, we have taken the necessary steps to monitor the industry on an on-going basis for potential infringement activities and have incorporated appropriate intellectual property protections into all of our contracting arrangements to prevent unauthorized use of our intellectual property. The high-performance hunting apparel market is hyper competitive with many mega brands and numerous niche players. We believe our “Dead Fall” pattern and associated trademarks are unique and separate Thlete from others in the industry and we are serious about protecting our rights in all that we do.
We have invested significant time and expense in building a comprehensive business plan for Thlete. This exercise forced a disciplined approach to balancing competing priorities, sequencing activities based upon expected return on investment and the needs of our core customer and available investment capital to support a growing business, as well as the bandwidth of the Thlete team to execute on the plan. High level, the business plan focuses on the following three areas: Brand Awareness; Product Development; and Back-Office Infrastructure.
Brand awareness and identity is crucial to success in our industry. Over the past three months, we have attended the Birmingham Deer Expo and the Montgomery Buckmaster’s shows. These events have allowed us to introduce the Thlete brand to the traditional southern whitetail hunter and have facilitated important conversations with existing customers who have purchased our products on-line with us in the past. Sales at these events have been modest, but web site views and orders have spiked significantly following each event. Following the Birmingham show, we redesigned and expanded our trade show booth in terms of our racking system, graphics and associated displays and equipment. We also invested in a large trade show trailer with custom graphics based upon our “Dead Fall” pattern and related marks. We were and continue to be approached for sponsorships of all kinds, big and small, cool and not cool. It is just great to have passionate whitetail hunters who have been incredibly successful want to be apart of the brands story. On top of the trade shows, we have undertaken to participate in appropriate podcasts featuring our brand and products. The first such podcast was broadcast by Sportsman’s Nation on September 6, 2019, and we have additional podcasts scheduled over the coming weeks. Finally, our e-commerce team at Thlete has been busy updating our web site to a more robust Big Commerce platform and our marketing team has been laser focused on refining our messaging and content around topics such as who is our core customer, what makes Thlete unique in the high performance hunting apparel market and our commitment to product development and innovation.
When we closed on the Thlete acquisition, we were fortunate to acquire existing product inventory, work in process inventory and related raw materials. This has allowed us to continue to grow sales through this transition period while undertaking the heavy lifting associated with R & D on product innovations and new product development. Our first step on this path was to meet with the leading manufacturers and fabric mills across the globe who participated in the Outdoor Retailer Show in Denver, CO this summer. These initial meetings have been followed by numerous calls, meetings and communications with a handful of leading mills, together with fabric sampling and related R & D. We firmly believe that appropriate fabric selection is essential to producing high performance hunting apparel, and that the rate of innovation in the fabric industry is truly remarkable. Staying abreast of these developments is essential to our continued success. Finally, our product development team has engaged a leading apparel design firm to assist with new product development and existing product enhancements. This exercise has relied heavily on input received from our existing customers on product enhancements they would like to see and our own views on what is missing in the marketplace.
In terms of back – office infrastructure, we identified early on the need for us to build management experience and expertise in the following core areas: Digital Marketing; Product Development; Fulfillment; and Accounting, Finance and Tax. We have been extremely fortunate to have assembled a comprehensive team of advisors/employees to handle each of these core competencies. This has not been easy or inexpensive for a growing business like Thlete, but we recognized early on that getting the right team together to execute on our business plan was our highest priority.
In the coming months, please look forward to announcements from us on a number of topics, including the extension of our camouflage pattern to include an additional new color palate, an early season pant and hoodie, an early season base layer quarter zip and pant and product enhancements to our core Phantom Series jacket and pant system.
Thank you for your continued support and please look forward to our coming announcements on progress we are making on the Thlete brand and mission.
William D Spalding II