Updated: Ibex closing down?

After a rocky year, Vermont-based Ibex lays off close to half its staff today.

Updated (6:45pm ET Tuesday): New details continue to emerge on Ibex’s fate since our initial report yesterday. Within the last hour, a current company executive confirmed that layoffs have happened, but denied that the company is in Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or other bankruptcy proceedings. Requesting anonymity, he told SNEWS that Ibex is “in discussion with its senior secured lender (the bank), as a major transition is occurring in the business,” and that “we have not initiated a liquidation process.” This statement calls into question what we were told yesterday by a different senior internal source, who is quoted in the story below.

Ibex also released a statement this afternoon confirming that 12 staffers were terminated last Friday, but that Ibex headquarters in Vermont remained open today, as did the website and brand stores.

SNEWS has attempted to reach CEO Ted Manning for clarification and comment. We will provide further details on this evolving situation once we hear from him. 

Ibex Outdoor Clothing, maker of high-end wool outdoor apparel, laid off 12 of its staff of 32 Vermont employees today, according to an employee of the company. “The bank is taking over and managing a liquidation process,” he said.

CEO Ted Manning was not immediately available for comment. But an employee at the Seattle retail shop confirmed that he had heard the news “and they were all trying to process it.”

Ibex was founded by John Fernsall in 1997 and Connecticut-based private equity firm North Castle Partners invested in 2010. Since that time, the company has been slowly shifting away from a wholesale to direct sales model, but the transition has not been an easy one.

With the infusion of capital, the company opened several brand stores in Boston, Seattle, and most recently in Denver in 2016. 

In February 2017, Ibex announced its Elite Dealer Program, which was supposed to be a partnership with the company’s best retail partners in which it shared customer information. “The program allows the retailer to access information from our direct-to-consumer business, most specifically the top 20 styles by gender and month for the respective retailer’s region,” Manning told SNEWS at that time. “The goal is to provide insight into what the consumers are buying and when they’re buying, but it’s also to shift the conversation and have a dialogue with the retailers about how we can mutually coexist in the marketplace.”

But six months later, in July, Manning announced that the company would jettison its wholesale business completely (about 300 specialty brick and mortar stores) and focus on direct sales and its flagship retail locations. 

In an interview with SNEWS at that time, Manning said “I cannot stress enough how little our private equity ownership had to do with this decision,” he said. “The truth of the matter is much simpler. We gave our very best efforts, with outstanding partners, and we were not able to make it work. In the face of a highly dynamic and volatile marketplace, we made a decision to move forward in the way that best ensures Ibex’s success.”

Todd Frank saw it coming: He purged his shop of Ibex signage months ago.Courtesy

At the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance Connect show in Knoxville, Tennessee, this week, retailers were not surprised by the bankruptcy. “The writing was on the wall,” said Todd Frank, owner of The Trailhead in Missoula, Montana, a long-time Ibex dealer. “I feel bad for all those people.”

The latest post on the company’s Facebook page is a quote from Arthur Ashe: “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

It goes on to say, “Thank you to our families, fans and followers for enriching our time on the trail. Until next time…”