Industry Spotlight: Fox Outdoor Products
Since 1982, Fox Outdoor Products™ has been a direct importer and distributor of tactical, enforcement, military and outdoor gear. Located in suburban Chicago, the company traces its roots back to World War II when founder Harry Fox realized the niche market for selling military surplus goods to retail locations across the country.
In response to dwindling surplus goods after the war, Mr. Fox became one of the individuals to tap the overseas market and establish direct import relationships with businesses in Asia, Europe, India and elsewhere. These suppliers produced a wide range of basic camping, sporting and other outdoor gear. In 1970, Mr. Fox sold the original business and went into retirement. In 1982, his nephew, Daniel Fox, founded the current company, Fox Outdoor Products.
What sort of products do you offer?
Fox Outdoor Products offers tactical, enforcement, security, military and outdoors gear.
What are your best sellers?
We are identified in the market as a bag and pack company, carrying hundred of SKUs of products that cater to the law enforcement professional, military personnel, campers/backpackers and the general civilian population. Best sellers include: (tactical packs) Medium Transport pack, Field Operator’s Pack, 3-Day Advanced Combat Pack and our Rio Grande Series. Military gear and all made of canvas: single-strap and zipper canvas duffel bags, parachute bags, tool bags, shooter’s bags and many other of the classic “oldies”, e.g., musette bags, Israeli Paratrooper bags, etc. Fashion bags and all made of canvas: our broad offering of retro/vintage bags and packs.
What makes your company unique?
As an entrepreneurial enterprise, we pride ourselves on the fact that we offer what we consider to be the best and most personalized customer in our industry. We go out of our way to service our customers, which is the very reason why we have been in business for almost 40 years. I take pride in the fact that customers truly enjoy doing business with Fox Outdoor. We bend over backwards and treat every customer, whether big or small, as being valued and important to our business.
What can you tell us about the people who purchase your products?
People generally buy Fox gear because we offer quality gear at a value price. Furthermore, we have over 150 items that have been field tested and recommended by the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), and of course, we stand behind our products unconditionally; if there is a problem, we work with our customer to resolve it in a manner that is equitable and fair.
Is your business family-owned?
It is owned by Daniel Fox, but in my mindset, I operate the business with a team approach. I don’t come across to my people as a CEO, president or owner. I have worked hard to command the respect of my staff, without using or exploiting the fact that I own the business. We don’t use titles in our company. My business card doesn’t say, Daniel Fox, President and CEO.
The greatest assets on the balance sheet of Fox Outdoor are its human resources. I pride myself on my people, and I am fortunate to have Andre Garibay, who has become the “face of Fox Outdoor”, and Ted Szewczyk, who has been with me for over 30 years, a fabulous staff of office personnel and a terrific warehouse crew. Our approach is that every individual has a specific function but that at the same time, every individual will do whatever it takes to get the job done. In other words, we have a multitasking approach to operating the company.
What advice might you give to small or family-owned businesses?
Make sure that the business is properly capitalized and that it has strong financial credibility. Ensure that the company has ample liquidity and can meet its working capital requirements out of cash flow. Ensure that the company maintains strong relationships with its: vendors, bankers/insurance providers, etc. Most of all, ensure that the business owners treat their employees with respect. If a company or an individual doesn’t have a “good name,” then at the end of the day, it has nothing! And finally, develop a reputation whereby customers truly enjoy dealing with your business. At Fox Outdoor, many of our customers are not just clients; we have developed personal relationships such that clients have become friends.
Do you use any sort of online resources, such as social media and eCommerce?
In recent years, we have begun to transition to the world of social media and eCommerce. Admittedly, as a person of my generation and knowing little or anything about social media and personally not being a user (i.e., I don’t have a Facebook account, nor have I ever made a purchase on Amazon), I recognize the vital role that it plays in today’s world. Thus, I have brought in a group of folks, mostly young, who identify with social media. We are doing some posts on Facebook, Instagram, etc., but we recognize that our focus on these media have to be much greater and broader. Most likely, we will hire a full-time expert in social media in the near term.
We are selling eCommerce platforms without disregard to our brick and mortar retail customers. However, once you are accepted by an eCommerce retailer, the process to get your product onto a given site is extremely tedious, labor intensive and the demands made are extraordinary. Selling in the eCommerce world has become a necessary evil, and if we could manage without doing so, we would opt out.
Also, unlike the vast majority of our competitors, we have not become an online eCommerce retailer in any meaningful and viable way because of our resistance to competing against our brick and mortar retailers; yet, it is clear that this will happen at Fox Outdoor, but only in a way that minimizes or eliminates any impact that it would have on our retail customers, i.e. pricing in a way that would not undercut our customers.
What would you recommend to surplus and outdoor stores to take advantage of this medium?
Clearly, in this world it is vital that surplus and outdoor stores combine their brick and mortar retail business with an eCommerce retail business, but only if the eCommerce site is built properly. It is best if it can produce incremental sales without the cost of social media and search engine placement drastically eroding the gross margins on the eCommerce sales. Otherwise, it makes no financial sense. It has become commonplace that retailers have become Amazon resellers, and are selling on Ebay and on so many other eCommerce platforms. Today, it is about survival, and with the challenges that retailers face as they have been profoundly affected by Amazon and the others, it comes down to the fact that “there is no choice.” To think that you can rest on your laurels and not pursue eCommerce is shortsighted in today’s world … unfortunately!
What features of Surplus Today do you find enjoyable or useful?
I think that it is a useful magazine both for the retailers and for the suppliers. I focus my interest on the advertisements, allowing me to see what is transpiring in the market amongst my competitors as well as other vendors.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes. On a personal level, I would like to applaud the efforts of David Castlegrant and his staff for effectively allowing the army navy sector of retail to maintain a structure, as it did for 50 years during the Walter Fletcher days. Although it took a while, David has allowed us to come together bi-annually with the ANME trade shows, and of course the magazine likens itself to the old ASD magazine. Furthermore, he provides opportunities for vendors, such as Fox Outdoor, to use his platform to communicate with the retailers, via eblasts, etc.
Regarding Fox Outdoor, we consider our company to be a leader in the tactical sector. We were among the early entrants in second tier of vendors, and we made a decision to concentrate on bags and packs. For those of you that are purchasing Fox Tactical and Fox Cargo Bags and Packs, we thank you for your business and loyalty. And, for those of you that haven’t tried our gear, please reach out to us. Consider the fact that we have over 150 NTOA-approved items. We will set you up as a dealer and go out of our way to insure that buying Fox Gear for your stores and web sites is a wise and profitable decision. We would welcome you to our “business family of dealers” throughout the USA.
2040 N. 15th Avenue, Melrose Park Il 60160
Danny Fox (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Andre Garibay (email@example.com)