Fitting success for Icepeak on a global scale
The annual Lahti Ski Games sees the city’s iconic trio of ski jumps towering over a hub of activity that lasts for three days every year. Drawing competitors and visitors from all corners of the world, increasingly many of them are arriving clad in apparel from a local Lahti company Luhta.
Since commencing operations under the name Luhta in 1907, the L-Fashion Group has grown to become one of the biggest clothing manufacturers in the Nordic countries. Inspired by US style and know-how with technical materials, its Icepeak brand was introduced in 1996, seeking to bring affordable waterproof and breathable clothing to the general public.
“Before then, world-class athletes and heavy users knew and used technical materials, but the mainstream could not get them,” recalls L-Fashion Group CEO Vesa Luhtanen, one in a long line of family members who have run the company. Focusing initially on the European market, these easy-to-care-for products for different outdoor environments feature items such as jackets and trousers suitable for hiking, to skiing and light apparel offerings including t-shirts, polos and shorts.
Each of these incorporates some of the numerous different technologies championed by Icepeak, ranging from basic waterproofing, to anti-bacterial and moisture transfer properties, UPF, stretchability and thermal material.
“Active and innovative product development is one of our main areas of expertise,” Luhtanen continues, pointing also to the importance of functionality, comfort and fitting. “Around 70 per cent of Icepeak’s offering changes radically every year. We want to make sure that we have up-to-date items for all our target groups in all market areas.”
Currently, Icepeak’s collection is sold in 46 countries and 86 per cent of its total sales come from outside Finland. The brand has accumulated an annual turnover of around 140 million US dollars, with sales exceeding those of such well-known Finnish brands as Marimekko.
“At the moment Central Europe – Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland and France – is our largest market area,” Luhtanen explains. “We are now taking steps into the Asian and the US markets. Icepeak has 19 dedicated stores in China and more are to come.”
The next stage of expansion in China saw their first collection directed specifically to the market in the autumn of last year.
“The offering follows closely with Icepeak’s global range,” Luhtanen explains. “Besides Chinese measurements the new market area has been considered carefully in colours, patterns and emphasis of collection lines. The feedback has been positive and our sales figures are now excellent.”
This is not the brand’s first exchange with China. In fact the world’s most populous country has been tightly woven into the very fabric of the Icepeak story. Acting as the base for the brand’s manufacturing operations, this strategy has ensured attractive pricing from the very beginning of the brand’s lifecycle.
It is an approach that has paid off in spades. A survey of sports retailers carried out by the leading European sports trade magazine SAZ Sport found that Icepeak was the most profitable brand for sporting goods retailers in 2013.
“Icepeak is still in a phase of growth,” Luhtanen emphasises. “We can grow only if our customers succeed first commercially and our most important mission is to help them to succeed.”
Text: James O’Sullivan
Looking for more good news? Subscribe to our newsletter