Voice of the Modern Manufacturing Economy Since 2013

Crescent Moon Snowshoes

by Chris Meehan on January 15, 2018, 08:25 am MST

www.crescentmoonsnowshoes.com

Boulder, Colorado

Founded: 1997

Privately owned

Employees: 7 (seasonal)

Industry: Consumer & Lifestyle

Products: Snowshoes

President Jake Thamm is basking in the success of the company's latest invention, the EVA All-Foam Snowshoe, which has received a blizzard of attention and awards since its debut in 2017.

Crescent Moon's new, patent-protected EVA All-Foam Snowshoe is an innovation for the industry. Rather than using a plastic or metal frame, they use dual-density foam, like that used in shoes, and plastic cleats for traction. When introduced at Outdoor Retailer (OR) last year they won six awards and the awards keep coming. In November 2017, for instance, Gear Junkie and Men's Journal recognized the EVA with "Gear of the Year" awards.

"It's an embarrassment of riches -- our 15 minutes of fame," chuckles Thamm. While Crescent Moon is no stranger to awarded innovations in the snowshoe industry, he's never seen a product get so much attention. "I think it's attracting the interest of those that we were hoping it would. That is people who have never considered snowshoeing before or who are getting snowshoes as a gift, whatever the occasion may be."

"This is a very intuitive, inviting kind of product. It doesn't have any clunk factor. It's very simple and easy to approach. It is definitely building or helping our brand build," Thamm says. Compared to most snowshoes the EVA looks like a marshmallow, and kind of feels like walking on one, too. Instead of somewhat more complicated bindings used on most snowshoes it uses hook-and-loop closures.

It's also more versatile. For instance, a man in New Jersey runs on the beach in them every day -- something one would never consider in traditional snowshoes. "The only reason I know about him is he calls, sends pictures, says he loves them. He's a crazy fan -- everybody needs a crazy fan," Thamm quips.

"If it ever snows again, I think the EVA All-Foam will really take off. We've seen really strong sales in spite of no snow and they sell through is actually good in places like REI, for example. It's also good online. Our online business is way up because of EVA All-Foam," Thamm notes. "Next year, we're anticipating that sales will be dramatically increased. Given some of the changes that we'll be making to the EVA All-Foam Version 2, I think it'll be more popular or well-received."

The new product is garnering interest from new stores, too. "We've had a number of unsolicited calls from those locations, coincidentally enough, that have had snow," Thamm says. That's led to entering into new stores in the Northwest and back East and generated more interest from the Midwest. It's also stoked International interest with strong distribution in Canada and a request for distribution in Europe, he says.

The EVA's success, however, has made it harder for Thamm to evaluate the impact of a dry November and December on overall snowshoe sales. "It's hard to sell snowshoes without snow. It's hard to sell umbrellas without rain. It's hard to sell buggy whips without buggies -- they go hand in hand."

The new EVA meant a big change in manufacturing for Crescent Moon. The company has and continues to make all of its traditional snowshoes in Boulder, but the technology for the EVA Foam shoes just doesn't exist in the US, according to Thamm. So after coming up with the idea for the shoe he had to find manufacturing partners that could build it and he found them in China.

"The experience of manufacturing in China has really been great. Our partners are phenomenal. They are knowledgeable and I think they're fully invested in the development of this thing," Thamm says. "In fact, we're actually talking about opening up business in China. It's opened up a lot of doors for us."

Currently, Crescent Moon doesn't have any accounts in China, but Thamm says his partners see an opportunity there. "Particularly because of the upcoming Olympics and the attention the winter sports will get throughout China due to the singular Chinese television station there, CCTV. They're going to be televising the entire Winter Olympics. . . . Given the response they have seen and observed in similar products, which make their way to CCTV, sales are almost predictable based on the exposure that the Olympics gets."

While Crescent Moon has traditionally manufactured in Boulder, manufacturing the EVA All-Foam Snowshoe overseas opens up new prospects. "We're still making everything for the aluminum shoes here in Boulder," Thamm says.

"It certainly does make us question if that's our best option," Thamm concedes. "We're looking for ways to grow the business and at the same time not lose our own identity. The truth is now we're already in China." Still, he'd have to find a different partner to build those snowshoes as the current partner doesn't do any manufacturing like that and has no interest in it, he says.

"We are in contact with another entity which does and can do those kinds  things and if we're able to satisfy ourselves with the quality and the consistency and all the other concerns of manufacturing stuff and of course cost," says Thamm, noting that competitors Atlas and Tubbs already manufacture in China. "It's certainly worth considering looking at doing the same with our aluminum shoe."

The manufacturing issue is compounded because of the changing job market in Colorado. "In the last five years we have seen a big change in the work ethic and the culture of work at least among the people we tend to hire," Thamm says. It's a seasonal position, he admits, observing "maybe it's not a particularly deep or wide pool from which to draw but it really has been more difficult each year and maybe that's why we're starting to consider other alternatives to doing it here."  

Challenges: Workforce. "I don't want to turn this into a gripe session at all, but finding good help has become more and more challenging every year," Thamm says.

Opportunities: Growing with increased visibility. "I think because of the increased brand recognition, there are other opportunities for us to expand our business," Thamm says.  

Needs: It's a moving target, says Thamm. "We don't know yet what we need for next year."

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