More than half of the employees at Vermont wool clothing company Ibex have been laid off, and the company is seeking “significant changes” in its business to continue operating, the brand announced today. A previous report by trade publication SNEWS that Ibex is shutting down is inaccurate, company representatives said.
The company remains in business, is shipping product, and the website is taking orders.
In a statement, Ibex CEO Ted Manning said, “Contrary to a significant number of rumors, Ibex is still operating today. And while it is not clear how the story ends, all the paths forward will require very significant changes in the organization, the business model and the ownership structure.”
Ibex, like many brands, has struggled with the extraordinary changes in retailing. Amazon, not to mention Walmart, has helped usher a revolution in how consumers shop for and purchase goods. Old school chains like Sports Authority and Sport Chalet are gone, and the parent company of Eastern Mountain Sports filed for bankruptcy in February. Beyond outdoor, Toys R Us, Wet Seal, the Limited, and RadioShack are also recent bankruptcy victims.
Manufacturers are responded by shifting their business models to what’s called direct-to-consumer, or DTC. By eliminating the middle man, profit margins can be higher, and that’s the path Ibex announced in July. The fall 2017 collection was to be the last in brick-and-mortar stores, and by spring 2018 Ibex expected to be fully DTC.
Manning’s statement continued, “‘What happened?’ is what gets asked the most. Which we have come to realize means ‘Whom do I blame?’ for most people. Not an easy question, and there is no simple answer. As much as Ibex has succeeded and created opportunities for itself, it has also dealt with the headwinds of seasonal volatility, shifts in the retail landscape and
an ever-changing consumer. It is not value of brand, quality of product or passion of its people that lead to this place.
“Today, November 7, 2017, Ibex continues to operate in anticipation of more significant changes in our business in the next few months. To that end, we also said goodbye to a few teams and friends last week. In total, 12 roles were eliminated last Friday. There are 20 employees still here in Vermont and more in our three retail stores. And while changes are happening in the business, our website and stores are still open. Each day we show up trying to support one another and trying to create the best outcome for Ibex.”
AJ will update the story as developments unfold.