Way Back When Machine

By Kenny Stocker

We have been Alpine Dreamin' since way back when but it is just 5 years since the first order crunched its way through our website. Since then we have moved twice, employed three staff, expanded our product range from 9 t-shirts through 1000 skus and done loads of other good stuff along the way. We are pretty proud of what we have achieved, and now for the first time we take a little jaunt down memory lane with the help of our Way Back When Machine.

2004 - Starting Alpine Style

We land with a bump way back in 2004. There goes Nick on his way to the Post Office with our first product, a t-shirt called 'Alpine Start'. Check out our original pdf catalogue! I guess this sums up how we started Alpkit, we simply got up early and got stuck in. Even the best alpine climbers find their first few steps in the morning a little stiff, but you soon loosen up and get into your stride. What we did wasn't rocket science, but we were the first to do it and we have done it as well as we can since then. In October 2004 we processed a hefty 3 orders, total! but at least we were on our way.

"We had a 0870 number so no one would think I was answering the phone in my dining room". Nick, Alpkit

Rolls of brown paper, sticky tape and stacks of Phuds filled Nick's lounge. We had to move so we found a small unit in Ilkeston with a view of the abandoned ski centre. We built a small climbing wall with holds kindly donated by the Nottingham Climbing Centre but they were polished, it was winter and the heating was not very good. Each day started by religously putting the kettle on followed by a game of Doom to warm our fingers. By lunch time we would be ready to check the system to see if any orders had come in. The phone was eerily quiet and we sent each other emails just to make sure it was still working.

A lot of our time was spent on another website that had just started.. UKC. Yeah, we should have just gone climbing or something but I guess we felt we should stay close to the phone in case a customer should actually phone. After a bit we decided we may as well advertise.. at least we could then justify this as work.

I'd like to think that we haven't changed a thing since we started but this isn't true, back in the old days we didn't actually have a lot to do, even so we seemed to fill the days up. We never took it easy but in the first 3 months of the store being online we had only had as many orders as we now get on a very quiet morning.

2005 - Building a brand

"What is the general idea of this lot? I like some of their kit but why do they have so very little? I also found their trials and info on sleeping bags VERY enlightening, but still can't work out if they are a shop or not and why such different kit? Is it because it's better than leading brands?" smonki on UKC

Someone had spotted our ads on UKC and wanted to know if our odd mix of cotton t-shirts, goose down sleeping bags and a cheap headtorch made us a legit brand. It did for us, we were an outdoor brand and we were living our dream. In the real world we were unknown, our collection odd, but it just happens that many of the products we launched over this period have proven to be amongst our most enduring: AlpineDream, Phud and our Airic sleeping mats.

In March of this year we dug deep and attended the Outdoors Show in Birmingham, a massive commitment considering how little we had. Our stand resembled something out of an IKEA catalogue rather than many of the other stands binning out last year's unsold products. We liked it, we got a bit of attention and more people started to talk about us on UKC and Outdoors Magic while we tried our best to live up to what people were saying about us.

We made Christmas special by recording some carols and giving away a personalised Alpkit iPod in our Christmas competition.

2006 - Gear shortages

The year started with a few hicups. We had our first major issue with a factory leaving us seriously out of pocket and out of stock. Petrol prices were also fluctuating causing the price of our Phud bouldering mats to increase which was followed in turn by a carbon shortage causing the price of our trekking poles to skyrocket so much that we didn't even place an order because we knew we wouldn't be able to sell them.

Good news finally came in the shape of our new lightweight Quantum PipeDream sleeping bags and we were nominated in the Outdoors Magic Reader's Award.. which we won for our entire product range!

Our problems continued as we took our titanium mug offline with a rival company claiming to own our mould and more seriously we ran out of Airic sleeping mats a lot earlier than we could have imagined. Obviously this wasn't going to be easy.

Somewhere along the road we had gained a climbing team; Polly, Beth and Ashleigh were ripping things up at the Nottingham Climbing Centre. Beth and Ashleigh went on to compete in the European Cup in Kranj this year and we took them all out to MelloBlocco in Italy before returning later in the year to explore Val Bodengo and produce our own offbeat Val Bodengo bouldering guide. It was great to finally do something together again.

Soon after our trip and despite being out of stock of many items we moved into a bigger unit. The biggest shock of the year was PC stalwart Nick switching over to Mac, and just for the record he wouldn't switch back!

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