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August 13, 2007 – Attempting to turn heads

August 13, 2007
Filed under Features

If innovation is a key to growth, Rigby, Idaho,-based Klim USA is on the brink of its next spurt.
The company, which makes high-end snowmobile and off-road outerwear, launched its new F4 helmet to dealers in July and will unveil its unique look to the public in August.
It’s part of a growth plan for the company, which has seen steady increases in sales since it entered the snowmobile market in 2000. Klim sales increased 76 percent from 2005-2006 and pre-season orders this year in the snowmobile line are up by 80 percent.
The off-road line of gear, a recent addition to the company product lineup, saw a sales increase of 106 percent in 2006-07.
“We have steadily grown at a pace to be most effective for us and our dealers,”?said Klim President Justin Summers. “We are going to be around for a long time and keep innovating and changing the industry.”
New Products Spur Interest
While Klim got its start in the snowmobile industry as a maker of high-end, technical jackets and pants, it’s expanded its scope in the snowmobile market.
The company, which preaches the shell-and-layer concept, introduced an insulated jacket two years ago. It was made at the request of the Midwest and Eastern market and became Klim’s pricepoint jacket. Sales have been consistently above expectation, said John Summers, marketing manager for Klim. “We attracted a lot of new dealers [with the insulated gear] and ran out of them early.”
Last year, the company developed a Gore-Tex snowmobile boot. It was such a good seller, John Summers said, that there will be two versions of it for 2007:?a general riding boot and one with a more aggressive style.
Then there’s the new helmet.
“Our growth has given us the opportunity to deliver the most innovative products to our dealers,” Justin Summers said. “When they get a look at the new F4 helmet, the dealers and consumers will be blown away. It is like no other helmet, period.”
Like other Klim products, a main focus in the helmet design involved ventilation. “It has 41 places where air can get into it,”?John Summers said. It includes special fin-like vents on the back of the helmet — the fins account for 27 of the venting holes.
It weighs 2.9 pounds and is made with Klim’s core buyers in mind: snocross racers, aggressive trail riders and mountain riders. It’s not a helmet for riders who putt around or live in especially frigid areas, John Summers said.
“This is something that’s been in the works for four years,”?John Summers said.
The helmet concept was conceived by Justin, who took the ideas to various helmet factories, learned what could and couldn’t be done, and about the stringent requirements to make the piece both DOT- and Snell-approved. The helmet is manufactured by a Taiwanese company, which also makes products for the aerospace industry.
The factory, said John Summers, was responsible for the helmet’s construction and safety standards. Klim personnel worked on comfort and features. “I’ve had a lot of helmets on my head for testing,” he said.
In all, it went through about 15 generations, with anywhere from 3-4 months to two weeks between versions. The last generations had the most minute changes, which included moving a helmet strap bolt that was too far back, John Summers said.
The helmet will sell for $375; an optional helmet liner (for cold weather) will be sold separately.
Facilities and Personnel
There have been other growth-related changes at Klim.
The company added a 12,000-square-feet warehouse space this spring. “This new space will help us better control inventory and supply our dealers better,” Justin Summers said.
Personnel has increased as well. The company hired additional employees to manage shipping and receiving more effectively, added an in-house graphic designer to its design department and has increased its outside sales force to 10.
“These new outside sales reps keep us closer to our dealers and let us service them faster and more efficiently,” Klim’s sales manager Brad Madison said. “The new inside reps have areas they are responsible for and also handle inbound sales calls.” psb

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