By Tom Ryan
Arctic Cool is yet another apparel startup bringing “instant cooling” to athletes when working out even on the hottest of days. But the company promises a big difference compared to some other approaches to cooling apparel, namely saving exercisers money.
Arctic Cool comes from Atomi, a Manhattan-based company founded in 1990 that specializes in portable charging solutions and recently broke into the cooling towel category. Backed by Hydrofreeze X fabric technology, the towels have been proven to cool to 30 degrees below body temperature when wet. A couple years ago, Atomi came up with the idea to create casual, comfortable apparel based on Hydrofreeze X, now in its fourth generation.
For the launch, Atomi recruited several industry veterans, including Patrick McCarthy, former group vice preisdent, global supply chain for Phillips Van Heusen; and Darren Talbert, most recently director of sales for footwear, apparel and accessories for department stores and specialty retail at Under Armour. The line was introduced on June 20 on ArcticCool.com and a couple months later on Amazon.com.
“The first weeks were quiet then it rocketed in July,” said Talbert, who serves as Arctic Cool’s director of sales, digital marketing and e-commerce. “The sales stats were amazing and exceeded all industry averages this summer. Specifically, we saw 2,000 unique visitors a day on average, saw conversion rates as high as 5.2 percent (national average is 1.5 percent), and sold 2.6 shirts per unique customer until we ran out of stock on the top items four weeks after launch.”
While most poly-based product just wicks away sweat, Hydrofreeze X wicks and then disperses moisture. A wind-chill effect is created as the fabric disperses the moisture in a controlled manner around the garment, according to Talbert.
A big part of the Arctic Cool’s appeal is the price; it’s offering technical shirts from $25 to $35 versus $40 to as high as $80 for comparable items based on similar cooling towel technologies.
Talbert believes many of the other higher-priced cooling apparel brands “have very high margin needs on their products due to legacy overhead commitments.” Arctic Cool, with only 18 employees and a commitment to remaining “very lean and mean,” is able to deliver a healthy margin at a lower price.
The other cooling offerings still don’t have all the features Hydrofreeze X provides, like cooling, quick-drying, four-way stretch, antimicrobial and wrinkle-free properties, Talbert asserts.
Hydrofreeze X stands out because it uses two of the top cooling technologies in one fabric. Internally, the engineered design of the fabric wicks then disperses moisture while maximizing air flow. Externally, a topical treatment, Xylitol, makes it instantly cool to the touch. While variants of both technologies are in the marketplace, Arctic Cool believes it’s currently the only brand utilizing both in one fabric.
Talbert believes that with poly-wicking tees now more than 20 years old and seeing some maturing, and cotton t-shirts experiencing flat growth, temperature control is the next big growth category for all apparel. Said Talbert, “The market demand is huge.”
As a response to this trend, Arctic Cool is planning to double its available offerings in 2017 versus 2016. The expanded range includes long sleeves, polos, shorts, caps, visors, bands as well as work wear. It will also be available in women’s and youth sizes. A focus on digital advertising in partnership with its agency, Expand Your Brand Consulting, will contribute to spreading the word.
Arctic Cool has been approached about licensing partnerships and may consider such strategic opportunities as they present themselves. The brand is also exploring selling to brick-and-mortar stores following its online success, and recently showed at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market for the first time.
“Goal number one right now is to simply put a lot of shirts on a lot of people,” said Talbert. “Goal number two is to exceed their expectations with the product and any after-sales service we can provide. We stick to those things and the rest will fall into place nicely.”
Photos courtesy Arctic Cool