Munich shopping with a clear conscience: Jack Wolfskin has long considered himself a green pioneer. So far, however, the German outdoor label has hardly advertised with it. This will now change, CEO Melody Harris-Jensbach told the Handelsblatt: “We are trying to communicate this in a positive and authentic way.
Awareness of sustainability has never been stronger, the manager emphasized: “This plays a major role for consumers. Therefore, it is now time to highlight to buyers the efforts that have been made for years to protect the environment. The brand will approach people with two or three core messages.
Jack Wolfskin is right on trend with this. Although the outdoor industry has always been strong in its advertising to show the colourful rain jackets, hiking trousers and climbing shirts in unspoilt nature, the brand is still very much in demand. However, the textiles were essentially made of plastic treated with chemicals.
In the meantime, however, the suppliers have changed. On the one hand they follow the spirit of the times, but are also under pressure from Greenpeace activists and eco-pioneers in the industry such as Patagonia or Vaude.
Jack Wolfskin, for example, is bringing more and more textiles into stores that are made entirely from recycled materials. Both wool and synthetic fibres are recycled, according to the company. Moreover, the entire collection has been free of per- and polyfluorinated chemicals since last year.
These are frequently used in the industry because they allow water, dirt and grease to roll off the clothing. However, they can get into the air, water and food and thus damage the environment – and health. In addition, Jack Wolfskin now uses a dyeing process that uses 90 percent less water than previous applications, explained Harris-Jensbach.
Retailers confirmed that customers are increasingly interested in sustainable goods. However, it is often difficult for people to find their way around, said Martin Kerner, managing director of the outdoor business base camp in Karlsruhe. Therefore, he had created his own label with which he marked sustainably produced goods in his shop.
Because that is a big hurdle. Consumers have so far found it difficult to see how sustainably clothing and shoes are produced. People in Germany can use the “Green Button” label as a guide. But there is no standard worldwide.
To change this, more than 250 brands, factories and retailers have joined forces in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The coalition has developed the so-called Higg-Index. This tool is designed to measure environmental impact and social benefits. The system is not yet ready. In the coming years, however, buyers will be able to compare the goods, similar to what is possible today with the electricity consumption of electrical appliances
Jack Wolfskin has to move because the company is in fierce competition. Many a sports shop no longer carries the label at all. In the case of the specialist retail chain Sport 2000, for example, competitors such as Vaude, Fjällräven, The North Face and Salewa have moved past Hesse. By 2018, the label had already dropped out of the ranking of the 20 suppliers with the highest turnover.
Among the most popular brands in the Intersport dealer network, Jack Wolfskin slipped one place to tenth place last year. For comparison: the purchasing cooperative’s own outdoor brand, McKinley, is in third place in the sales statistics, right after Adidas and Nike. At the beginning of the decade, Jack Wolfskin was still number two directly behind Adidas, even ahead of world market leader Nike.
However, Jack Wolfskin runs more of its own stores than any other outdoor brand in this country. That’s why specialist retailers are far less important to the manufacturer than they are to its competitors.
It is no coincidence that Jack Wolfskin is finding less and less space on the shelves of specialist retailers. The company has had an eventful time. For a long time, Harris-Jensbach had to deal more with bankers, lawyers and investors than with the actual business.
In recent years, the owners have given themselves the reins. That, however, is now over: just over a year ago, the US corporation Callaway took over the company for 418 million euros.