Mountain Warehouse has been developing the very best outdoor gear for all the family and their adventures since 1997. Company CEO Mark Neale sits down with RLI to discuss how the business is expanding at home and abroad.
Over the last 22 years, almost all of the products Mountain Warehouse has sold through its stores and website are exclusive to the business and cannot be found elsewhere. The company does this so that, by designing its own top quality products and having them made to its own exacting standards, they can cut out the middleman, meaning customers receive the same quality, but at significantly lower prices than other stores.
The Mountain Warehouse group currently operate 350 stores in total, and exactly 250 of these are UK Mountain Warehouse stores. On top of this 43 stores are split between the US and Canada, 43 are in Europe across Germany, Poland, Austria, Holland and Ireland, three shops are in New Zealand and the group operates 11 shops under its new brand, Neon Sheep.
“Our new concept Neon Sheep opened its 11th shop in Leeds recently, and it’s a quirky, modern gift shop, selling a whole host of products including stationary, homewares, giftware and clothing,” explains Mountain Warehouse CEO Mark Neale. “While our core Mountain Warehouse brand is aimed at a broad range of customers, Neon Sheep is aimed at the younger generation.”
In the past 12 to 18 months the perception of the company has grown immeasurably and has gone on this journey from people having no real awareness of the brand, to then showing some awareness, to having a real affinity for the concept. Three new Mountain Warehouse stores have opened recently, with two of these coming on the same day at completely opposite ends of the world. In one day a store opened in Bath in the UK whilst another was opened in Christchurch in New Zealand.
Bath had always been an area of interest for the company, but being quite expensive from a rental point of view it took them a while to find something, but they have now found a location in a very vibrant town with a lot of international tourists, a lot of domestic tourists and a lot of students on a very busy street.
“The development pipeline looking ahead has stores opening in the UK, in Europe, in North America and New Zealand. On top of our strong store pipeline, we’re investing a lot into our online business which is growing quickly in both the UK and overseas and we now ship to over 100 countries,” explains Neale.
In terms of new markets, this is not something that the group is looking at in the current moment, as the consensus is that they have lots of road left in places where they currently operate, particularly in the US and Canada, Holland and Germany. Longer term this is something that will change but over the next couple of years the focus will be on countries where they already have an active retail presence.
New products are constantly being developed with a focus on weather-proofing the business, so that they don’t only have products to sell on cold and wet days, but that they can also trade positively on bright and sunny days.
“This year we’ve had a big focus on womenswear, which is something if you went back two or three years, this wasn’t happening,” says Neale. “We thought that when mum comes into buy something for her child it would be great if she could buy something for herself too so we have massively expanded our womenswear range.”
The online side of the business has seen a massive increase and it now represents over 25 per cent of sales, with the business continuing to invest heavily in it. Whilst the company maintains a presence on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, it is not something there is heavy focus on just yet due to the brand’s core audience of middle-aged, middle-class customers.
So what would Neale say is the ethos of Mountain Warehouse?
“We offer value for money, family-focused outdoor wear for everyone. Whatever the adventure you are looking for when you walk into a Mountain Warehouse store, whether you are travelling the world or exploring close to home, there’s something in store for you.”
To finish the interview, we asked Neale what lies ahead for the company.
“One of the things that, perhaps two or three years ago we didn’t have to think about were the political risks and challenges that seem to be cropping up along with the unknown impact of Brexit and what might or might not happen in that arena and these add interesting extra dimensions to the sector at the moment. I do know that we are and will carry on opening shops in the UK, in Europe and outside Europe and we have to deal with what we can deal with and not worry about things that are outside of our control,” Neale concludes.