Like most outdoor brands, independent or owned by a conglomerate, Ibex has been navigating the challenging shoals of the modern retail environment, with competition from Amazon and other large online players, plus the typical commercial issues of market share, pricing pressure, space in shops in more. That venture is coming to an end, though, as Ibex will shut down its business by February, CEO Ted Manning told Adventure Journal.
The move comes less than a month after it was falsely reported by SNEWS, an outdoor trade publication, that Ibex was done. At the time of that report, Ibex was actively seeking a buyer. Manning told AJ, “Up until the last week of October, it appeared there was a path for the brand to be sold and move forward with continuity. We had a buyer and the way that things don’t work out sometimes, this one didn’t work out.”
The Ibex team had been transitioning to a direct-to-consumer business model, in which sales primarily come from the company website, bringing higher margins and (hopefully) lower overhead costs. It’s a move many outdoor brands are pursuing, but it brings its own challenges, including not alienating the existing retailers, fulfilling orders, and actually getting online shoppers to visit the site, which is expensive. All those pieces were falling into place, Manning said, making the decision to shut down all the tougher.
Ibex was founded in eastern Vermont in 1997 and earned a diehard customer base that loved its merino apparel and classic styling. It built a dealer network of about 300 storefronts. It sourced its wool in New Zealand and was at the leading edge of wool’s resurgence as a technical fabric in the 1990s. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough.
“Why?” said Manning. “It’s a tricky question, honestly. It’s difficult to explain, in that there are parts I can’t talk about and parts that are hard to understand. There are the macro pressures of later and later winters, the omnipresence of big retailers online, the promotional pressures on price…and we dealt with all of those just like everyone else. When you combine those with the systemic pressures in the business, we reach this point.”
Ibex is now on a glide path to closure. “We’re entering into a soft liquidation. We’re trying not to cheat the brand or the people who love it. We’ll start letting people know [Friday]. We expect to cease operations in February, sales will become final and no returns. And we’ll use our inventory in our channels and closeout opportunities, convert it to cash, and fulfill our responsibility to the brand.”
Despite the ending of Ibex as it’s known today, Manning is hopefully someone will be able to resurrect it. “The raw material that is required to restart is good. The [lack of] love affair with the brand isn’t what happened to here. That’s not the liability. Quality of product is not the issue. The value of our house file is quite good. That’s what’s the opportunity for someone, and I have been overwhelmed by the level of interest” from potential buyers.
Photos courtesy Ibex