A peek into the early days of Helinox’s expansion in the U.S. and Europe
From limited-edition products to establishing a multi-lingual customer service team, the lightweight collapsible furniture brand is all grown up
Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+.
A lightweight camp chair with a matching carrying case and blanket, all in a playful pattern—sounds like the perfect kit for lounging outdoors in style.
Helinox this year is debuting this type of colorful chair in collaboration with Rumpl, the millennial puffy camping blanket brand. And it’s the start of many more limited edition collaborative projects, according to Helinox North America CEO Ted Ganio.
“It gives the retailer an opportunity to put something unique and limited in the store that will bring the customer back to them,” Ganio says. “If there are only 1,000 worldwide, Helinox fans will say, ‘I’ve got to have one of those’ and come back to the retailer.”
He continued, “We think that people want to have fun with their furniture, that it doesn’t just sit in the tub of camping gear and come out once a year. Our furniture sits in the van, in the trunk of the car, it’s always there and it’s used often.”
From 2011 until the end of this year, sales and distribution in North America was managed by Big Agnes. But with Helinox wanting to leave the nest, the brand has opened a new North American headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ganio was hired as CEO and Sally McCoy is serving as executive chair of the board.
“It’s a natural evolution that the brand Helinox needed to take control of its own destiny and credit needs to be given to Big Agnes for that growth,” Ganio says.
The former Vista Outdoor and CamelBak executive says his first priority is to make the transition for retailers as smooth as possible. Then, he says, the team in North America will work with the global team to refresh products faster, bringing fresh color and energy to the established pieces.
Overseas, Andrew Shand was hired to lead the expansion of the European subsidiary. He started on July 1 and now also acts as the managing director for Dongah Aluminum Corporation (DAC), the aluminum tubing poles Helinox uses to make its furniture.
Shand, who previously served as Vista Outdoor’s international vice president of outdoor products, has worked with McCoy and Ganio in the past at CamelBak. Shand says it was an easy decision for him to team up with them again.
By September, Shand expects to have set up a small, multi-lingual customer service team in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to support the continuous improvement to serving European customers and support the relationship with a third-party warehouse provider in the Rotterdam, Netherlands.
His top three priorities are to select a lean, core team of multi-lingual/cultural and value-adding people who share the Helinox brand values; continue to build strong partnerships with retailers who respect the brand and want to help grow business; and build partnerships with agencies and service providers who will help to deliver customer service of the same high quality as the Helinox product.
“What attracted me to the Helinox brand was it has the foundations of outstanding design, real innovation and also premium product,” Shand says. “Those are essential building blocks for a brand to have a future in this industry. The owners also have the ability to take a long-term view. I understand how much of an advantage it is to be able to invest in the brand without perhaps quite such a short term view to generating return on investment. I believe they’re making exactly the right moves. We’re at the start line. It pays to be patient in the right areas, but that said, we’ll be working really hard to raise brand awareness and work with retailers who share our vision for Helinox.”
The new team assures us that we can expect a lot more from Helinox, both in products and in global service.