Target adds Kelty brand to camping department

In an exclusive interview with SNEWS®, American Recreation Products CEO Dale Philippi confirmed that the Kelty brand name will be appearing in Target as soon as Jan. 31, 2010.

In an exclusive interview with SNEWS®, American Recreation Products CEO Dale Philippi confirmed that the Kelty brand name will be appearing in Target as soon as Jan. 31, 2010.

“We clearly recognize this is a shift, but we also believe it is an opportunity to raise the tide for everyone,” Philippi told us. “Target offers the opportunity to reach out to a far more economically and ethnically diverse audience than shops at outdoor specialty stores. Ultimately, what we have always wanted, and hope to achieve here, is to make the Kelty brand more relevant to new participants, as well as camping enthusiasts.”

SNEWS had been hearing from sources in Asia and in the United States over a month ago that Target would be adding Kelty to the product assortment. 

According to Kenny Ballard, president of the Boulder Outdoor Specialty Group (which includes Kelty, Slumberjack, Wenger, Sierra Designs and Ultimate Direction), Target approached American Recreation about adding Kelty product to its camping assortment and making it the top-end brand among its selection.

Target is no stranger to carrying brands familiar to outdoor specialty retailers. Coleman, Thule, JanSport’s Trans line, Sigg, Leatherman and Nathan already appear or have appeared recently on Target shelves SNEWS has been told by insiders.

In the camping department, Kelty will be positioned, we are told, as Target’s premium camping brand, sitting above Eddie Bauer, Coleman and Target’s Embark house brand. While the product will carry the Kelty brand name, and end caps and merchandising signage will promote the Kelty brand, all products for the Target store are special make-up (SMU), according to Ballard.

“The Target product will be SMU and based on some inline product but with different names. Prices will be at inline retails and not lower,” Ballard told SNEWS. “We are offering Target a tight collection of product specific to Target. It will not be featured on our website at all. When customers go to Kelty’s website, they will find inline product only, with referring links that only direct them to existing specialty dealers.”

While Philippi would not confirm specifics, it is expected the Kelty product mix will include one family camping tent, a couple of shelters, a kid’s and an adult’s synthetic sleeping bag, a camping pad, a selection of packs, some windwear/rainwear, and a few items from the Kelty camping storage line. 

While some of our sources told us it looks as if Kelty is heading down market, Philippi firmly disputes that notion.

“Fundamentally, the consumer at a Target is a lot different consumer than at other points of distribution,” Philippi told us. “We are staying true to the mission of getting more folks engaged in outdoor activities. We are investing at an increased rate into advanced new product development in the specialty channel to ensure that we maintain Kelty as a vibrant pinnacle and premium brand and that new product will always appear first and only at outdoor specialty stores.”

In the end, Philippi told SNEWS, the opening of Target as a distribution channel will only work if the product the Target consumer purchases are at a quality standard that ensures the outdoor experience is a good one. Most likely, buying a camping product there will be a first for many Target customers.

“I think Target understands that it will never be a destination camping store, but at the same time, they have told us the camping category has been an under-managed category for them in the past,” said Philippi. “Target is in the mode that with this current economic climate and mood in the country, a return to the outdoors by families will be a trend going forward. They want to be able to support that, and encourage it with quality product that ensures their customers’ experiences will be good.”

Added Ballard, “The products that are appearing in Target are being made with the same quality materials and the same quality construction methods at the same factories as our other Kelty products. That is important, as it ensures the consumer feels good about the brand when they buy it.

“Ultimately, our goal is to get Kelty into the hands of and get exposed to more consumers. And if by doing that, we are able to ensure they all have a positive experience, then it is far more likely we have a customer for life who will upgrade to other Kelty or other premium-branded products in the outdoor specialty marketplace — at least that is the intent and goal,” he said.

There is certainly no denying Target’s potential for influencing the buying decisions of a vast number of consumers, as well as exposing a brand to an almost unimaginable number of eyeballs. Insiders familiar with the Target business confirmed to SNEWS that the retailer reaches in excess of 50 million consumers each week through its newspaper circulars.

How, or if, that will translate into a much deeper and broader demographic participating in the outdoors as a result of Kelty appearing in Target remains to be seen.

–Michael Hodgson