Own-Brand Range or Product of the Year was won by Go Outdoors for its OEX line of affordable tents, sleeping bags, clothes and accessories.
For a retailer specialising in outdoor equipment, winning a personal endorsement from one of Britain’s most renowned mountaineers is a coup – particularly so if it is for an own-brand product.
Described by Alan Hinkes as “well thought out, well designed, well made, no fuss gear”, Go Outdoor’s OEX range impressed the panel of expert retail judges as well.
The vision behind the range was to make camping and walking gear more affordable for a new generation of adventurers – particularly, the retailer said, for young people embarking on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.
The scheme is designed to prepare young people for life – regardless of their background – but the equipment required for the outdoor challenges can exclude some from participating.
Affordable and durable
Cue OEX, a growing range of tents, sleeping bags, clothes and accessories designed to keep costs down.
With the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in mind, the retailer called on mountaineer Ben Maxwell, a former coordinator, teacher and the founder of BXM Expeditions, to consult on the design of the products.
The OEX range is “built to survive any adventure, using materials and build quality that will last for years. Made for relentless expedition use anywhere in the world”.
“The outdoor industry is tough to crack with high expectations no matter what the product value”
The lengths Go Outdoors went to in designing the range and keeping costs down grabbed the judges’ attention.
One praised the achievement “in a market which has lots of big brands” as especially impressive.
Another pointed to the figures of the nascent brand as a sign that Go Outdoors did its research – “it shows”.
Sitting in a highly competitive market of camping brands, OEX needed to hit the ground running, and the sales performance in its first year showed it got off to a good start.
But uniting the judges was how well OEX fits in with the core principle of enabling less wealthy young people to participate in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme.
One judge said: “I really liked the way they are trying to make Duke of Edinburgh expeditions less expensive and more inclusive.
“It’s an excellent initiative and it’s good business. There are lots of commercial benefits and elements of corporate and social responsibility to that.”
Another judge noted how well the whole range had performed. Each product line – tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, apparel and equipment – was generating sales.
Go Outdoors was up against some stiff competition – and in its award entry the retailer was frank about the challenge: “The outdoor industry is tough to crack with high expectations no matter what the product value.
“This, plus the unforgiving nature of outdoor customers, means momentum in a new brand can easily be halted unless the product fits.”
Nevertheless, the retailer has proved that it can do big things in the own-brand business.