Joe Riccelli, Innovative Designs president and CEO, is hoping that buyers of hunting apparel will have an easier time finding his company's products this fall.
That should be the case, given that outdoorsmen shopping at some of Dick's Sporting Goods' 221 stores in preparation for hunting season will have a chance to see the eight-item i.d.i. gear line first-hand.
"The hunting apparel industry is going to be the big kick for us, simply because the industry is huge -- $1.2 billion a year," says Riccelli.
The company's hunting line is in more than a dozen other sporting goods stores and chains as well, including Jay's Sporting Goods in Michigan and the mega-retailer Woodlands World store in Farmington. Riccelli anticipates rolling out a line of golfing apparel next year.
Riccelli is betting that sportsmen will find his company's products preferable to the competition's chiefly because of Eliotex, the fabric used as insulation in the garments. Innovative Designs has the exclusive rights to manufacture, license and sell Eliotex, a thin, light polyurethane fiber with outstanding insulating, waterproofing and buoyancy properties.
Those properties prompted Roots, a Toronto manufacturer of sports apparel, to use the fabric in jackets worn by some Canadian and U.S. Olympic team members in 2002.
Getting into stores for the 2004 season was no easy task, given that the i.d.i. gear hunting line was introduced this February. Retailers typically book orders a year in advance, Riccelli says.
He started down the road to becoming a clothing manufacturer in 1996 when he acquired the rights to Eliotex, which was developed by an Italian inventor. He began to sell the fabric to manufacturers and license the name to apparel makers.
Riccelli says he sees the licensing track to be at least as big as the clothing manufacturing business for Innovative Designs, and it's attractive because it requires less capital.
The company launched an initial public offering last fall in a sluggish IPO market to raise the money it needed to kick-start the manufacturing and marketing effort to get i.d.i. gear into retailers' hands. A successful launch with Dick's, Riccelli says, gives Innovative Designs a jump on the 2005 season and the attention of other retailers.
"No. 1, it gives us exposure," he says. "Being a new line, people want to see who's carrying it, and with a company like Dick's, it gives us credibility."
While he's excited about the opportunity to partner with Dick's, Riccelli is wary of growing too fast, lest he risk disappointing his customers.
Says Riccelli: "We don't want to grow too quickly, because we don't want to get into a situation where we sell something and then can't deliver."
Smart Business talked with Riccelli about bagging a big customer, IPO's and i.d.i. gear.
What is the relationship between Innovative Designs and RMF Global?
RMF Global is the company that has control of the raw product, Eliotex, which is the material we use in all of our products. We began marketing Eliotex in 1999 through RMF Global.
The U.S. and Canadian Olympic teams picked it up, and we had such a large response from people wanting to buy product containing Eliotex that the idea came up to form a company that was going to do the finished product. This is where Innovative Designs came into existence.
It's a pretty large leap, but there are several ways to market a new product. We sent reps to Nike, adidas, the big boys, just for the Eliotex. This was by RMF Global, prior to forming Innovative Designs, and it was very well-received.
Roots in Canada picked it up for the Olympics. That was a big splash for the product. We finally released our own lines, our hunting line, we released it in February in Las Vegas, and it's been very well-received. We have a hunting jacket that's basically weightless, yet gives you warmth and comfort.
What's the advantage for the customer?
For a sportsman out there carrying a gun, carrying game, obviously less weight, more comfort. We're pretty confident that it's going to take off fairly well.
This year, Dick's is going to be carrying it in some of its local stores. The fact that they even carried it this year and they bought so late -- retailers are usually buying a year in advance --a year ago, we didn't have the line out. So I guess the buyer liked it enough to put it in some of its stores.
What's the next step with Dick's?
That's up to Dick's. Obviously, there's going to be ample time to go over it and see how the line does. I think they probably wanted to see if we could deliver.
We have no problem with that because we warehouse goods right here. A lot of companies write orders and manufacture for what they write. We basically write orders and manufacture twice as much because we're confident enough that the reorders are going to come. We're very confident that 2005 is going to be a huge year as far as sales are concerned. We're also getting into the golf apparel business, and we're probably going to be releasing that for 2005.
This isn't the greatest time to be launching an IPO. Why did you go that route?
It's not, and quite honestly, it was to raise funds -- you need an extremely large amount of money to create an apparel line and sell it, and this is why we did it. Would I do it all over again? I doubt it.
You spend so much time in the (red tape) of being a public company that you could devote to other areas. The regulations are so much more demanding. We're there now, so we're going to remain a public company. It'll help us down the road when we need to raise funds because as we grow, we're going to need capital to progress and complete the projects that we start, and that takes a lot of money.
How to reach: Innovative Designs Inc., www.idigear.com