By Chris Meehan | Nov 29, 2015
When Trango launched, it was largely a distributor of products, but the company has since developed a line of unique and standard climbing gear and brought other climbing-inspired brands under its umbrella.
Beyond the internationally sourced Trango, the company owns eGrips, a rock-climbing hold that produces climbing grips in Colorado; Stonewear Designs, which makes women's clothing for the rock-climbing, yoga, and athleisure categories in the U.S.; and FRD, which makes military-grade descender equipment. It is also the U.S. distributor for Spanish rock-climbing shoe company Tenaya.
The company is seeing strong growth from its largest brands, Stonewear and Trango, according to Klinke, who's setting the stage for more. "I'd like to continue to grow at an over 40 percent rate for the next three years," he says. "With eGrips, I want to continue to grow at a 10 to 20 percent rate a year, not only domestically but also internationally."
Klinke says eGrips is one of the industry leaders in climbing handholds, but, given that the market's smaller size, there isn't as much room to grow.
The women's clothing and climbing industries are much more competitive, with a plethora of companies competing for shelf space and some heavy hitters to contend with as well. However that does offer smaller companies a greater chance to expand their growth.
Founded by Sari Nichols in 1996, Stonewear pioneered clothing for female climbers before Trango purchased the company in 2001. While it's stayed true to its roots, it's grown into competitive new categories. The company is woman-run and its products are designed by women. "Stonewear is in a market that's become athleisure," says Klinke, explaining that customers want products that are comfortable at the office, grocery store, and yoga or fitness studio.
"Where we're at right now is designing clothing first and foremost based on functionality, fit, fabric, and fashion," he adds. "Most women are doing activities three to five times a week. Plus they work, have kids, and have to manage multiple priorities."
"With Trango, we've continued to grow substantially every year since 2011," Klinke says. "We are trying to take our brand to be one of the large players but that's not going to happen overnight. It's part of a five- to 10-year game plan."
That means competing with companies like Petzl and Black Diamond. A key will be developing the base products consumers expect of climbing companies like carabiners, but also products that serve niches within the climbing market like Trango's training centers. "The Rock Prodigy and the Rock Prodigy Forge are products that have become market leaders in a very short period of time," touts Klinke. "Our Crag Pack is pure function for climbers. These types of products continue to help us expand our marketplace."
The company also leverages institutional knowledge across its brands. "What we're doing with Trango and eGrips is making complementary products."
Trango also leverages that knowledge with its retailers. For instance, Klinke explains, "One of fastest growing shops for Trango has been Gear Co-Op over the last 12 months because we've done various co-promotions and joint marketing. With that, we were apply our experience and successes with Trango to get Stonewear going through Gear Co-Op as well."
Challenges: "Bringing high-quality product at a price that's competitive. Making strategic decisions about where our areas of growth are going to come from," Klinke says.
Opportunities: Products for indoor climbing facilities. "Things like Dawn Wall and the growing popularity of indoor climbing gyms helps create more opportunity and awareness," says Klinke.
Needs: "Awareness and shelf space," says Klinke. "Building awareness of the brand in opposition to the dominant players and value proposition that Trango offers."