By Eric Smith
Outdoor and sporting goods retailers across the country have shuttered their doors for at least a couple of weeks and some are already canceling orders. With this key sales channel dormant for who knows how long, the owners of the outdoor gear brand Flowfold decided to reposition their Maine production facility and join the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Instead of bags and wallets, the company has pivoted to making face shields—a critical personal protective equipment (PPE) need—for health care providers in its home state. Flowfold’s first order of face shields was set to be delivered this week to MaineHealth.
James Morin, Flowfold’s COO and president of sales, told SGB Executive this week that the company felt a sense of duty to the broader community when it opted to transition its production focus.
“None of this is fun. None of it,” Morin said. “And I’m not just talking about the extra cleaning or new face shields, but also the added personal stress of citywide lockdowns and daily emergency press conferences. But the Flowfold team never wavered. Not once. We knew we could help, and we collectively did that. We’d much rather be prototyping a new pack or planning for Summer OR, but we were issued a challenge to support the men and women who are really sacrificing and jumped in headfirst. And you’re seeing that across the country right now. Across all industries, including the outdoor industry. And that’s what makes me the most proud. Seeing our team amount others completely rally behind something bigger than ourselves”
Good things aren’t just happening stateside. Oberalp Group, the Bolzano, Italy-based parent of such core outdoor brands as Salewa, Dynafit, Evolv, Pomoca and Wild Country, isn’t too far from the epicenter of the coronavirus in Europe, so it felt compelled to help out where possible.
And the company delivered in a big way, explained Drew Saunders, country manager for Oberalp North America. With health care personnel in the South Tyrol region of Italy running out of face masks and medical gowns, Oberalp Group called on a partner in China to produce 16.5 million face masks and 550,000 disposable medical gowns that were quickly shipped to coronavirus front lines in Italy.
Oberalp also mobilized its footwear and apparel design and development center in Montebelluna, Italy. The Group leveraged that division’s production capabilities and leftover materials of Gore-Tex and Oberalp’s own proprietary waterproof breathable Powertex fabric to produce 25,000 washable and reusable face masks as well as medical gowns in a matter of days. The supply provided a short-term bridge until the higher volume arrived from China.
For Saunders, it speaks to the family-owned company’s commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the overall spirit of the outdoor industry.
“The Oberalp Group is a values-based business,” he told SGB Executive. “Obviously, there’s a financial component to it, but it goes way beyond that. We are driven not only by a passion for mountains, but also a passion for the environment, a passion for people, a passion for community. The owners and employees of Oberalp are motivated to do what we can through our production, sourcing, logistics and distribution capabilities to help in this time of extraordinary need. We see it as our duty as a member of the community to contribute in these ways where we have the wherewithal to do so.”
Flowfold and the Oberalp Group are just two examples of brands giving back during this pandemic. For this latest installment of the Coronavirus Notebook, we look at the amazing contributions that brands across the active-lifestyle marketplace are making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Below are some of the other companies offering the use of their manufacturing facilities, providing materials to make PPE, donating product and giving monetarily in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. This week’s notebook celebrates them all. Let us know who we missed by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add them to the list.
Pivoting To PPE Production
As the country grapples with shortages of personal protection equipment, apparel and gear brands in the outdoor and sporting goods industries are offering their manufacturing facilities and capabilities to meet the health care community’s growing demand. Here are a few:
- Fanatics, which manufactures the official Major League Baseball (MLB) player jerseys, has halted jersey production efforts and is repurposing its 360,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Easton, PA, to immediately begin making masks and gowns for health care professionals.
- Chaco, the outdoor lifestyle footwear brand that’s owned by Wolverine Worldwide Inc., is now manufacturing face masks and other PPE needed by health care and first responders. The company retrofitted its Michigan-based ReChaco factory to make the face masks, and it’s sourcing patterns from local health care systems and collecting raw materials from its parent company.
- Eddie Bauer is shifting portions of its production capacity to make N95 and surgical masks to help meet the demand for PPE caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Eddie Bauer will donate masks to the State of Washington through the Department of Enterprise Services as early as next week.
- North of the border, Canada Goose is leveraging its manufacturing facilities to begin making scrubs and patient gowns, which are in short supply across Canada, and begin distributing them to hospitals next week. Approximately 50 employees per facility will work to manufacture the gear and have an initial goal of producing 10,000 units.
- Kitsbow and its Asheville, NC-based neighbor Industry Nine are making face masks and shields for first responders and medical providers in Western North Carolina.
- Members of the Outdoor Gear Builders (OGB), a nonprofit business association made up of Western North Carolina-based outdoor industry companies, are working to support the health care industry during the pandemic.
- Tultex, an apparel brand under TSC Apparel, which is redirecting its efforts to produce face masks for the health care industry amid the widespread shortage.
- New Balance is producing prototypes for face masks in its Lawrence, MA, manufacturing facility and hopes to scale production using the company’s other New England factories soon.
Some of the biggest names in the active-lifestyle marketplace are chipping in with large cash donations. Here are some notable ones from the last couple of weeks:
- Nike Inc., its top leaders and the Nike Foundation are committing more than $15 million to COVID-19 response efforts. Nike’s executives—including Phil Knight, chairman emeritus and co-founder, and his wife Penny; Mark Parker, executive chairman of the board, and his wife, Kathy; and John Donahoe, president and CEO, and his wife, Eileen—are personally donating a combined $10 million to a host of charities.
- Under Armour, Inc. is donating $2 million to a pair of causes. The company has pledged $1 million to Feeding America to support hunger relief efforts as a result of current school closures and quarantines. And it is giving up to $1 million in cash and product to support the 30-day Healthy at Home fitness challenge on Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun platforms.
- Also, the New Balance Foundation committed $2 million in nonprofit grants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to support local, regional and global communities.
Other Ways Of Helping
Companies are finding other, creative ways to help in the cause even if not through PPE production or cash contributions. Here are a few:
- Crocs Inc. this week announced the launch of a new program for those on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus: “A Free Pair for Healthcare.” Crocs is offering health care workers across the U.S. the opportunity to get a free pair of shoes, while supplies last.
- Oofos, the recovery footwear manufacturer, announced plans to donate more than 1,000 pairs of shoes to nurses and medical professionals across the country.
- Keen Inc. donated 100,000 pairs of shoes—about $10 million worth—to the workers on the front lines and the families at home fighting through the coronavirus crisis.
- Superfeet has opened its doors to help those needing immediate access to 3D printers and/or production facilities to shore up short-term medical supply demand. Superfeet and its sister company Flowbuilt Manufacturing opened up capacity on their HP MultiJet Fusion printers and set up a manufacturing line for producing medical equipment.
- Founder Sport Group is producing performance activity masks (PAMs), which “will provide concerned citizens some peace of mind while allowing medically approved N95 masks to go to front-line personnel,” said John Anton, CEO.
- Hestra donated 38,000 pairs of gloves to Colorado first responders. The nitrile gloves will be used by the City of Arvada to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Vail Resorts Inc., which had to close ski areas early due to the coronavirus, donated 50,000 pounds of excess food from its resorts to 30 local food banks, schools and community organizations.
Photo courtesy Flowfold