What a year it’s been! It’s certainly had its ups and downs, as well as its side to sides, upside downs and flip right back rounds again.
One thing has proven ever more valuable and those moments of being able to get outdoors have helped us through, given us something to look forwards to and also been used as a positive force. Whether grabbing your ‘one a day’, being able to extend the adventure once more, or the power it brings to helping others.
Despite the difficulties, it has actually been an incredibly positive year for Alpkit, on so many levels and we have been able to land some pretty key projects, through the resilience, dedication and resourcefulness of the team. Then throwing in the awesome support of our customers and their love for the outdoors, given that a good old stir, it has helped us cook up a pretty good serving of go nice places, do good things.
We’re incredibly lucky to have those ingredients in the larder. Thank you all for your support over the last year.
Here are our highlights from the year.
Rewinding to the start of the year we demonstrated our continued commitment to sustainability, validating what we have done, what we are doing and what we plan to do. To do this in a year such as this only reinforces that sustainability is not just a buzz word, it is fundamental to how we operate. and we kicked the year off by publishing our first sustainability report.
Through the later part of 2019 Ethical Consumer Magazine helped us develop the framework and we were finally able to put into words (and pictures) the work we have been doing instinctively for 15 years. These are based around 6 core principles of: a Circular product lifestyle, Looking after the Environment, Treating Animals Humanely, Work with people we believe in, building a better business and giving back.
It was really exciting to see the support and recognition from our customers as well as others within our industry. The report has been embraced by the team here at Alpkit, helping to add context to our decision making and improve internal communication. Keep a close watch out, we are just finalising this years sustainability report outlining what we’ve achieved against last years aims!
It’s been a big year for the Alpkit Foundation and in March we were lucky to be able to switch our support to the very immediate responses to those communities impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst appearing tiny in the overall size of the impact Covid was having, these smaller, quick to issue grants meant we were able to offer immediate help, which had an immediate impact helping those right at the heart of the situation. Our customers responded brilliantly too, helping us raise over £5000 in one weekend to go straight to community support around the UK.
It really is wonderful to see many of the projects that felt the impact of the initial wave of Covid-19 being able restart and carry on. While lots of us are looking forward to saying goodbye to 2020 we know that it has been incredibly tough for many and will continue to be for some time to come, with the new year not easing this. To be able to give something back through the Alpkit Foundation is absolutely fantastic and this year we supported a further 300 projects which took us over £300,000 donated to over 900 projects since it was set up in 2015.
This really is incredible and we’ve got to thank all our customers who share the belief that the outdoors is a force for good and by supporting our journey have helped us to build the work the Foundation is doing. We’ve also got to thank all those amazing people we’ve been honoured to support, doing truly extraordinary things to help others and make the outdoors accessible.
So alongside the Covid response, this year we have been able to support some inspirational projects including community gardens for those suffering mental health, accessible cycling, forest schools for adults with learning disabilities, encouraging inner city young people to get outdoors and increasing diversity.
We’ve continued to gather your old outdoor equipment that you've been kindly donating, and then passing on to charities and organisations that make sure it gets used by those that could really benefit. It's brilliant to see all this kit getting a second life and really helping others. In November we ran a campaign supported by the Alpkit Foundation to specially call for old sleeping bags as part of our Donate a Good Night Sleep campaign. Your response was absolutely amazing. It has been an absolute honour to repay this enthusiasm and facilitate getting these immediately out to our supported partners and those that really needed them now.
If you had blinked you could have missed it. Over one frantic hour we managed to broaden our shareholder base to include customers, staff, friends and family. We could not have received a greater sign of confidence in what we are doing - so many thanks for not blinking.
Living Wage Foundation.
In July, in the midst of the pandemic, we kept our promise to our team and officially became a Living Wage Foundation employer. This was super exciting, but were we proud? Well not quite - we wanted to do it years ago! We really do have an incredibly strong team and to be able to make this commitment is absolutely in line with our culture. “The passion, determination and resilience of our team has been put to the test during recent months, but for us a company is more than a legal entity. It’s the people we hang out with, the people we interact with and the culture we have created.”
In August we completed our verification process with B Corp. The work we put into the Sustainability Report really laid the groundwork for this and - on our first attempt - we didn’t just scrape through, we smashed it with an outstanding score of 95. Were we the 1st UK outdoor brand and first EU bike brand to get it? Quite probably.
It's a rigorous process that had us meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. Again this wasn’t achieved as a knee jerk reaction, it is thanks to the quality and depth of work we have been doing since way back when. The recognition is nice, but more importantly what B-Corp gives us is a tool to help align what we do with global sustainability initiatives. We think we are on the right path with this one.
The year started brilliantly as the Sonder gravel series continued the tour of our stores and you came in all excited about the adventures to come. Then unfortunately it all had to pop on hold. But being the resilient bunch that our store team are, they bounced back as excited as ever to welcome you... oh hold on, then they had to close again! Ah not to worry we soon opened to welcome everyone back, until.... urghhh right down to the last day of the year! Closed again today! It's lucky that we really do have such an exceptional team in the stores and no matter what's to come, they will keep bouncing back. Our stores have become such an important part of what Alpkit is and we love having people coming in to share the love of the outdoors, so it's been heartbreaking not to have been open for so much of this year. We hope you get the chance to pop in and say hi as soon as we can open again next year. What's more... yes you guessed it. Keep a look out for Alpkit Edinburgh early in 2021, let's hope we can keep on track!
In December we were voted TGO online retailer of the year. That’s the 7th time in 9 years and it’s a real honour to gain this recognition on behalf of the hard work put in by our entire team, from product design to the unwavering dedication of the warehouse crew.
It doesn’t get any easier, every year the competition looks more and more fierce with companies with huge global customer bases, but fortunately for us our customers are at the heart of everything we do. Their readers are our customers, we are our customers and we all value awesome product design, top customer experience, greater participation and protecting the environment we all seek to enjoy. Thank you for your support!
Product really is at the heart of what we do and to be continuing to develop exciting and relevant kit to help you get out and enjoy the outdoors keeps us ticking year on year. Through what has generally been a tough year we're super excited by the level and quality of the new products we've managed to launch, as Ronnie our design manager explains.
"For products that were designed and developed during the height of Covid, and still achieved our key aims of using more recycled content while making truly functional technical clothing that works harder and costs less, I feel particularly proud"
In October we launched the Kanyo. "With PFC-free DWRs and a 100% recycled fabric and fill, the Kanyo is our most sustainable jacket yet"
The Jura mountain smock came in under great excitement and had pretty much sold out on pre-order.
The Fortitude, our new classic all-weather hillwalking waterproof, combining high performance fabrics with a relaxed fit and longer cut.
Then the Elan also has to get a mention - that, almost infamous, long awaited hooped bivvy! "We knew we had a lot of customers who liked bivvying but even by our estimation it's been a big hit!"
For our Sonder bikes it's been another phenomenal year, one which has seen a real pinch in the supply of bike components across the entire industry, meaning some unfortunate delays in build times. Nonetheless we're incredibly proud to have scooped a few awards through the year, which goes to reflect the talent and hard work of Neil and his team at Sonder.
Camino Al - Singletrack, Editors Choice award
Colibri Ti - Cycling Plus, Bike of the Year.
Hot off the press! Evol - Singletrack Readers Award. Best bike under £2000.
So that was pretty much it! I'm sure there's loads in there that we've missed, but it can't go without re-iterating a big thank you to all our customers in what has been a challenging year for many. May we wish you fabulous New Year and let's hope for a postive 2021, one which brings many more opportunities to go nice places, do good things. Stay safe!