This has been on my mind for a while. I am in no way criticising the company involved, as they are very clever indeed and are sticking it to “The Man” in the form of big fat lazy companies at every turn. The issue is the product and the punters blinkered reaction to it, and the consequences thereof. I’ve used and use various bits of their kit, it’s mostly basic and functional, some is just rebranded generic stuff, some gems and some horrors.
It’s the excitement that people are gleefully purchasing the kit without actually thinking about it that amazes me. Let me explain.
You buy a sleeping bag from “B” for £200 in a shop (or £179.99 on the web, but we’ll ignore that because it’ll confuse the issue and you’ll get so bored with the endless connotations that you won’t get to the end where the actual salient point is, the crux of the matter if you will). It is a finely crafted bit of kit, made from the best materials. The shop has paid £117.50incVAT for it to the distributor, who take their cut and the rest goes to the manufacturer who pays the factory in China.
“A” sells their similar sleeping bag direct to the public with no middle man for £120. They pay the same factory in China. “A” are happy to admit the limitations of their kit, the corners cut and how they’re actually doing the punters a favour by keeping costs down. Well no, not really. I know I’m not taking into account volume sold here, but down bags are not a volume selling item. Unless the punter thinks they’re getting a bargain.
Let’s think about this. The bag from “B” is the same cost from it’s origin to retail (distributor to shop) as the bag from “A” (factory to website). “A” has no distributor to pay, so they take a bigger cut. On an inferior product that people are pissing all over themselves to get a hold of. I know that’s really simplistic, some companies do their own distribution etc. but the principle is right.
“B” and the other companies are actually having to react to this, and what worries me is that their quality will fall, ranges are having to include more cheap bags to compete with “A” and quality product development will suffer. It’s like the cut price web guys, it’s screwed the retail trade. Some products are almost worthless due to discounting, the fine Montane SuperFly being a prime example. You can hardly give them away.
So are Alpkit and the cut price Webists (not the small band of quality independant webists who are our new local shops and should be defended at all costs) destroying the trade? Or will Mike Ashley do it?
Whatever, the big companies will soon have to move out of China as labour costs rise and to compete they’ll be sending sewing machines to Mongolian herdsmen’s children to try and save themselves.
I just hope when I’m sixty and heading for the hills I’m not dressed in tat, carrying camping tat in a tatsack because it’s all gone on it’s tits.