Alpkit is a small outdoor gear company that designs, manufacturers and sources quality outdoor clothing and equipment, and sells it directly you, the customer. Therefore, you won’t find Alpkit gear on the rails of the big outdoor retailers. Why? This enables the brand to control every aspect of the company, ensuring customers receive only the very best outdoor gear to help keep them protected from the elements on their adventures. The company was first created by four friends, Nick, Chunk, Jim and Kenny, who were fed up with their smelly kit falling apart.
Having reviewed quite a lot of the company’s products in our gear tests, we’ve come to love Alpkit gear, but we wanted to find out a little more about what happens behind the scenes. Naomi Dunbar spoke to Dan Thompson, the company’s marketing manager, to find out more…
We’ve heard you’ve opened a new UK factory, what was the decision behind this?
Our UK range was becoming increasingly sought after and we started to think about recruiting new staff, getting some more machines and developing new products. All of a sudden, that huge factory space that we never thought we’d fill had started to look a little small. You’d think that a large empty building just a stone’s throw from our Global HQ would be hard to come by. Usually it probably would be, but luck had it that someone built one next door and they were happy for us to take it on. The plan was set in motion, all we had to do was wait.
Why did you choose to manufacture in the UK?
Ever since Alpkit began here in Nottingham, we always knew that we wanted to start producing kit close to home. UK manufacturing in the outdoor industry saw a gradual decline throughout the latter half of the 20th century, with a huge number of factories closing their doors, for good, in the late 90s. This was not only a huge loss for UK manufacturing, but for the hundreds of highly skilled individuals who lost their jobs.
Textiles put our local area on the map, so if we were going to produce outdoor gear, we wanted that outdoor gear to support our local area, continuing the tradition of making technical outdoor equipment on the edge of the Peak District like Rab Carrington and Pete O’Donovan. We wanted to create opportunities for experienced machinists to return to the textile industry as well as for enthusiastic and motivated individuals to develop new skills. This has created a real gem of a workforce, talented machinists passing on their knowledge of making things and mixing with passionate outdoor folk.
What are the benefits of manufacturing in the UK?
A huge benefit of having a UK factory base, is that we can make prototypes and test product as soon as we think them up – we can try things that others just can’t. It also means that if we find an idea that works, we can start production immediately and not have to wait six to 12 months for deliveries from the far east. These are instant solutions to gaps in our gear armoury.
Another aspect that we like, is that a UK factory gives us the facility to be able to repair and fix our products, this is why all UK made products come with a 25-year Alpine Bond guarantee. We’ve also been able to install small repair stations in our Ambleside and Hathersage stores. These take products from all brands and we can fix them up so that you can love your gear for longer… we hate waste and we want to make products that last.. We are super keen on making sure we are as environmentally and ethically sound as we can be and we think the best way is to make stuff that lasts longer so it isn’t constantly being replaced.
What makes Alpkit stand above the rest of the outdoor brands?
We are a retailer and a brand, we offer a full service and by designing, sourcing and even making everything ourselves, we have full control of what we do. We’re not relying on a third party retailer to represent our brand, and the people behind it, or to deal with customers for us. Since day one, customer service has been second only to making the very best products, it’s so important to us that we look after our customers so we endeavour to offer the very highest levels of customer services, whether that’s hand written notes in every order or fast response time to phone calls and emails, we also ensure that we have knowledgeable and friendly staff.
When our customer service or store staff cannot help, we are proud that there is literally one degree of separation to the rest of the team. So a team member can ask the person who designed or even made the product you are using, not many brands can offer that.
Alpkit offer a wide range of quality outdoor gear, so whether you’re into cycling, hiking, water sports or camping, they have all the kit needed for your next outdoor adventure. Head over to the Alpkit website to check out their full range, or head over to one of their stores where one of their friendly and knowledgeable staff members will be able to assist should you need any help or advice.