Over the course of 2020, NEMO’s founder and CEO Cam Brensinger felt like he was riding a rollercoaster.
At the start of the pandemic last March, he put nearly everything on hold — production, sales and marketing. Only product development was left untouched, with the expectation the pandemic wouldn’t last forever, and people would want to be outdoors more than ever.
Goal number one was to keep all employees on the payroll with benefits, no small feat for a small, independent outdoor brand.
“We decided to base our sales target on what it would take to retain our people and not have to furlough or lay off,” Brensinger said in a January interview with the outdoor industry B2B publication, The Voice.
But by May, Brensinger started to see a trend — people were tired of being cooped up in their homes and apartments, they were starving for connection and found heading outdoors offered solace and a safe way to socially distance. Only weeks after turning off production, the challenge became to turn the supply back on as fast as possible.
The NPD Group found similar trends through its Retail Tracking Service. According to a recent press release from NPD, “The outdoor market generated $6.1 billion in U.S. retail sales in 202o. As consumers have sought ways to be active, outside, and practice social distancing both in their backyards and other outdoor settings, camping (+36 percent), water sports (+19 percent), and additional areas of the market experienced year-over-year growth in sales.”
By summer, demand for NEMO’s camping gear and accessories skyrocketed. Products that made the outdoors more enjoyable were selling fast. One product, the Stargaze Recliner Luxury, sold out through NEMO’s website and all retailers. In 3 months, the company sold a year’s worth of chairs.
Benefitting from long-standing relationships with its manufacturing partners, the team raced to meet the demand.
Jim Kelley, president of NPD’s Sports Practice said, “After a truly unprecedented year, we are thrilled to celebrate the bright spots of 2020 within the outdoor market and recognize companies including NEMO, who played an important role in meeting the heightened consumer demand for outdoor products. We congratulate NEMO on this accomplishment and wish them continued success in 2021.”
By the end of 2020, NEMO had kept all its employees. As the brand looks forwards, it’s forecasted to grow significantly. While NEMO had been on an impressive growth trajectory, the increased interest in the outdoors due to the pandemic has accelerated that growth.
Since July 2020, 11 new positions have been added with five more planned by the end of 2021. The new positions address the sweeping growth NEMO is expecting, as well as positions that were scheduled to be added before the pandemic and shift in consumer behaviors. Areas of focus during this growth phase include marketing, product development, business analysis and development, purchasing and planning, and content creation.
“Growth like this needs to be intentional and thoughtful,” said Brensinger. “We are a values-led, long-term goal-oriented business. Our mission is to inspire a love of adventure, for each other and for our planet through thoughtful design and messaging. We are determined to lead the way in addressing climate change and exemplify meaningful and.”
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