HISTORY OF ROBINSON OUTDOOR PRODUCTS LLC
A History of Innovation
Business success is like a mathematical equation. A combination of things creates results. In today’s outdoor industry, participant passion and new products that play to that passion are the clear drivers. Within that driven landscape, the word "innovation" is tossed about a great deal, although it is almost always used to refer exclusively to the product side of the formula. "Our company thinks differently," says Scott Shultz, President of Robinson Outdoor Products LLC
"For us, the concept of innovation underwrites everything we do. Yes, it’s new products. But at Robinson, innovation is even deeper than that. Our approach is that we innovate or we die, and that means at every level, every turn and in every aspect of how we manage and run our business. It means that we seek innovation in how we initially view problems, how we develop solutions, how we connect with our customers and with consumers, how we bring new products to market and even how we sweep the floors, manage the finances and attract and motivate new people. Innovate is our internal mantra, if you will, and it applies to absolutely everything."
Scent Shield® is Born
This company was founded on innovation. In 1985, company founder Bill Robinson forever changed the hunting world with the introduction of Robinson Laboratories Scent Shield®, a spray product that eliminated human odor. Bill Robinson was a known chemist, and saw an opening in the hunting industry that no one else had envisioned. After developing pet care products for years Bill Robinson decided to try his hand in the hunting industry with scent elimination sprays for hunters. After no success at his first SHOT show two important people in the industry discussed his idea with him and with that his vision of Scent Shield® was born. Hunting in general, the hunting marketplace and the Robinson company have together continued to evolve along those lines ever since.
"Our company’s history is one of unrelenting innovation," Shultz reflects. "In our first decade, we plowed much new ground, reinventing how hunters viewed their scent control efforts. In the proceeding decades, we reapplied ourselves over and over again to develop even better scent control products for hunters, build and solidify our brands and create new and more effective ways to bring our goods to market. To do all that, we’ve had to continually change and grow.
ScentBlocker® Changes the Hunting World
In 1997, the company took a major step forward. It negotiated a licensing agreement with an American firm that allowed it to produce activated carbon scent control clothing. "That was a bold and aggressive step for us. Up to that point, we had focused almost exclusively on liquid scent-elimination products. With those products, we delivered the ability to neutralize human odor on a pH (acidic) level. That worked very well, but it was only one part of the odor puzzle. To control organic odor, something different was required, and what worked best for that was activated carbon and the science of adsorption. We called our new carbon clothing ScentBlocker®, and it allowed us to further our circle of effective scent control hunting products. With activated carbon clothing, we were into a whole new realm of science. For us, it was almost like we had been given the second half of the alphabet. The carbon clothing completed the part of the scent control loop that we had been missing, and it dovetailed perfectly into our innovative and aggressive plans to become the A-to-Z source for every sort of effective scent control product for hunters.
Taking It To The Next Level
In 1998, the company became aware of even more advanced carbon fabrics, originally developed in Europe, which demonstrated outstanding scent control properties. These Freudenburg fabrics had even proven effective for biological and some radiation protection. Robinson quickly negotiated an exclusive agreement with the fabrics producer and began development of a second-generation of ScentBlocker® clothing line.
"Partnering with the Freudenberg people allowed us to create and introduce a whole new level of activated carbon clothing for hunters. At the same time, it allowed us to differentiate our carbon clothing from the quality carbon clothing of other producers. The extra effort required to innovate an exclusive carbon fabric for the ScentBlocker brand has certainly paid big dividends over the years. The entire thing turned into a wonderful project.
"In 1999, we introduced the ScentBlocker® Plus UltraLite clothing line to rave reviews. The clothing was revolutionary. It was lighter, quieter, had all the right pockets and fit and functioned better for hunters than anything ever offered before. At the same time, the activated carbon very effectively adsorbed organic odors."
Breakthroughs in thinking and new products were already a Robinson Outdoor Products LLC hallmark when, in 2001, the company introduced a revolutionary new scent elimination spray, Carbon Blast. Carbon Blast proved such a breakthrough for hunters that the United States patent office awarded us a patent on the formula," reveals Shultz.
Changing Of The Guard & Acquisition Growth
About the same time all of this product innovation was taking place, the company itself also underwent a series of equally innovative changes. In 2002, with founder Bill Robinson retiring, Scott Shultz purchased the company. And in 2003 Robinson Outdoor Products LLC acquired Whitewater Outdoors®, a 50-year-old Wisconsin apparel company.
"Whitewater Outdoors® had a long history of providing conventional outdoor clothing, gloves and accessories. In that sense, they had everything we didn’t have, and we had many things that they also needed. They had been around a very long time and had many loyal customers, including the United States military. We were still fairly new, but we had much experience in new-age sophisticated fabrics, garment technologies and designs. The vertical integration of our two companies was a match made in heaven."
Changing The Way We Go To Market – Partnerships
We continually innovate new and exciting products that help hunters do every one of those things. In 2005, Robinson Outdoor Products LLC launched the now-wildly successful Dream Season® line of premium quality hunting clothing. The launch was grounded in new product technology and in a new strategic marketing partnership with Mark and Terry Drury of the Dream Season® television program. "With the input of the Drury brothers, we developed yet another breakthrough lineup of unique hunting garments. The new Dream Season® apparel featured a brand new type of artfully printed camouflage fleece that was unbelievably soft, quiet and hunter friendly. Because the fabric was so inviting and because of the exposure it received on the Dream Season® television show and in print, the clothing line quickly set all sorts of sales records.
In 2005, Whitewater Outdoors® also innovated. Whitewater® and Realtree® strategically partnered to introduce the Realtree® Pro Series line of hunting apparel, which proved equally successful as the Dream Season® line. The partnership followed the same lines that had already been successful with Dream Season. Realtree’s Bill Jordan and Michael Waddell are nothing short of outstanding in their appeal to consumers and to the outdoor industry. In quick order, we had another hit on our hands.
In 2006, we launched Sportsmen’s Edge, a line of vitamin supplements specifically formulated by leading physicians to increase the performance of sportsmen in the field.
A New Step - Footwear
In 2007 we debuted the new ScentBlocker® Dream Season® footwear line, innovative S3 apparel, proprietary fabrics, including bamboo performance textiles and Ti4 spray – the first spray scent eliminator to combine pH neutralization, organic odor adsorption, microbial prevention and an oxidization deterrent. Current Director of Footwear Product Developer, Eric Bantley, came from the big corporate footwear world. His previous work can be seen under some of the major outdoor footwear manufacturers.
Bone Collector Partnership
In 2009, ScentBlocker leaped on-board with Michael Waddell and long time ScentBlocker friends Nick Mundt and Travis "T-Bone" Turner to introduce the highly touted Bone Collector line of clothing; from the full line of Scent Shield S3 antimicrobial baselayers and mid-layers to activated carbon ScentBlocker apparel and footwear.
There are many variables that lead to business success, and various companies mix those variables differently. For Robinson Outdoor Products LLC and its sister company Whitewater Outdoors®, however, the overriding element in the formula is raw innovation. Innovate – in every facet of the business – or die, is a hymn with a steel backbone. It’s a company-wide view that inspires and drives. For us, it creates results.
"By remaining true to our brand and our customers, we succeed."
It sounds obvious, but behind the scenes of every technical product at Robinson Outdoor Products LLC is a history of exhaustive use, abuse and in lab testing. We start with an idea, a need, and then seek out the finest fabrics, materials and formulas and start exploring design solutions to meet the need. Our advanced product lab tests materials, compatibility, performance levels and effectiveness scores with crucial data, but the final step is most crucial. We head into the field, because real world hunting needs can’t be solved in the lab alone.
Such full-on testing often exposes details that might otherwise be overlooked. For example, designing hood or headcovers on a mannequin in the office is one thing. Until you climb up a high placed treestand and pull it over your head and try to draw a bow and shoot that you realize your vision and draw is compromised when that chance of a lifetime walks out.
From this in-depth field testing we have developed some of the most unique details and benefits that go into our products. Offset main zippers for clean shooting, diamond crotch gusset for a resistant free climb into a treestand, Silent Wrist Ratchet Body Lock for on stand adjustment, Gearpendent Technology for minimal movement while reaching for gear, Zip off removable arm guard for non-restrictive shooting, tree harness slit for integrated attachment, perfect fit, function and the list goes on.
Honestly, it's an evolution of understanding more than anything else. It's years of experience and many days, weeks and months of sitting in the tree stand, on the stalk, in the bottomlands, on top of the mountains shivering, sweating and soggy moments figuring out what something really does and why and what we can do to make it hunt better.
Innovative partnerships represent a fresh and beneficial way for us to bring new products to the outdoor marketplace. We’ve long recognized that we are in a very competitive market and also within very competitive product categories within the market. One of the problems that everyone in our position faces is the likelihood of having new products quickly and simply duplicated by the competition. This is where our strategic partners come into play. What we innovate with Dream Season or Bone Collector® is a further locking up of our brand and product uniqueness. No one else can offer a Dream Season® or Bone Collector® garment. They may copy some of the features, but they can not knock the garment in its important entirety. Such innovative partnerships do take considerable effort to formulate and no small expense, but they clearly generate additional consumer demand, and they allow us to offer products that can not be entirely duplicated in the market.
Partnering with these television personalities also offers consumers the privilege of choosing their favorite camo pattern. We have strategically partnered with Realtree® and Mossy Oak® to bring you the highest quality camo patterns in the market to help you blend into your terrain.
Partnering with the premiere shows in the industry only enhances our presence in the market. But, in order to introduce our innovations to the outdoor marketplace we need to rely on our retail partners such as Cabelas, Gander Mountain, Bass Pro Shops, Dicks Sporting Goods and the numerous dealers throughout the U.S. to bring our products to the customer first hand.
Robinson Outdoor Products LLC helps the younger generation with life threatening illnesses each year by donating money to the Catch-A-Dream Foundation in order to fulfill a young person’s dream of harvesting a buck of a lifetime.