Kombi Sports Inc.
Montreal-based Kombi Sports Inc. is a leader in carefully designed gloves and mittens. However, the company recently extended its expertise in keeping people warm to a head-to-toe winter accessories line. “Embody Warmth” is Kombi’s new tag line.
Established in 1961, the family-owned company built a reputation for outstanding customer service and affordable, high tech gloves and mittens. Today, however, Kombi products range from base layers, socks, headwear to cold weather accessories. These products are distributed in more than 1,500 stores across Canada and in over 20 countries.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Vice President Mark Pascal about the company’s rebranding and new winter accessories line and the warmth that keeps customers coming back.
A New Focus
In 2013, Kombi decided to re-examine its brand and core values. It conducted a survey that asked consumers, buyers, store-owners and floor staff in Canada what they thought of Kombi. The results were positive. However, while Kombi had been selling a range of products since the 1990s, the survey revealed that consumers largely associated the company with gloves and skiing. So Kombi rebranded and clarified its image. “Our new brand image is part of an international growth strategy, aiming to solidify Kombi’s relevance in the winter clothing and accessories market,” Pascal says. He explains that the big changed involved thinking about Kombi in terms of winter not skiing, and winter accessories not gloves.
As part of the rebranding, Kombi changed its logo and signature. But it also defined new product categories into Multi, Metro, Elite and Kids. It added new packaging colours and pictograms that let customers understand and pick products more efficiently based on their needs.
On its revamped website, the company designed a set of pictograms that describe how the products keep the Kombi customer warm. Some of these pictograms categories include “Breathable,” Gore-Tex material with balanced heat transfer and optimum moisture management in harsh conditions. Or “Insulated” with Ultraloft technology, a microfiber insulation that’s wind and water resistant and lightweight. And “Quick dry” designed to keep hands dry all day with Accu-Dri technology that absorbs and disperses micro-droplets of humidity.
The purpose of Kombi’s rebranding was a successful effort to be clear and simplify the Kombi brand to customers, which resulted in the continued growth of the company.
“I think a lot of the growth has to do with the communication and the clarity to the consumer,” says Pascal. “The consumer doesn’t have a lot of time to make decisions, and the clearer we are, the more transparent we are, the better it resonates with the consumer and they can make the purchasing decision and buy products.”
Kombi’s rebranding initiative was so effective that it received an ISPO Award in best communication in rebranding from within the sporting goods industry in 2015. “Communication across every touch point was made consistent – conveying heartwarming yet short, clever and attractive,” the ISPO Award site says.
Of the products, Pascal says: “It’s going to keep you warmer than your regular fleece or leather glove. Because we know the components required to create a warmer product. We believe that our products are warmer than any others out there.”
Happy, Warm Winter Memories
In the company’s rebranding, Vice President Mark Pascal and his father President Ed Pascal connected their winter accessories line with a family focus. “I’m a father who wants more for my family and for families throughout Canada from head to toe,” Pascal says.
Kombi wants to ensure that children feel warm in frigid winter temperatures. A popular design in children’s winter wear is the side zipper with gussets that help kids put on their gloves. Kombi also carries a wide variety of hats in animal designs that kids would love to wear. These include hats called “Noah the Gorilla,” “Owen the Owl,” and “Spooky the Shark,” which are part of the company’s range of specialized products for the head, body and feet.
“Our goal is to be the strongest winter accessories brand in Canada, and to protect families from head to toe. And the number one most important thing we are providing to our consumer is warmth,” he says.
A Strong Partnership
Kombi attributes a number of its products’ success to its partnership with Gore-Tex. In the early 1980s, Kombi was one of the first brands to partner with Gore-Tex, which added a “breathable waterproof membrane” to many of its products. “From the get-go, our commitment has been to keep people warm all winter long with the warmest, comfiest, driest accessories possible. All that thanks to our long-lasting partnership with Gore-Tex, the leader in high-performance, durable, waterproof technologies whose promise, Guaranteed to Keep You Dry®, was right up our alley,” the Kombi website says.
Warmth for Kids the World Over
As an international company for the past three decades, Kombi includes a team of nine employees based in Shanghai. This team ensures excellent product quality control, and maintain business relationships with factories. As well, Kombi recently began distributing its high-tech winter wear in Japan and China. Japan has always had a strong snowboard culture and the need for breathable products is in high demand.
As well, because Kombi is fantastic at designing children’s products, Pascal says Japan is starting to see the expansion and distribution opportunity in Kombi’s children’s products. Not just in snowboarding and ski specific gloves.