The distinctive products from dryrobe are increasingly seen at multisport events – from the brand’s home base in the UK to a number of international markets. Many elite triathletes have embraced the dryrobe ‘stay warm’ philosophy; and Team GB triathletes have been seen regularly using dryrobe products since 2013. (They were purchased by the GB elite teams at the 2013 PruHealth World Triathlon Grand Final London.)
Billed as ‘the outdoor change robe’, dryrobe was designed by Gideon Bright, a North Devon, UK-based surfer with over 30 years’ experience in the water. As a pioneer in the pre- and post-race ‘stay warm category’, we spoke with Gideon to find out how this fast-growing company is now aiming to take its business to the next level…
triathlonbusiness.com (TriBiz): Perhaps you can start with giving an overview of dryrobe?
Gideon Bright (GB): dryrobe is ‘the ultimate change robe’. It’s a highly portable, private, warm & dry space to change clothes inside or simply throw on, over anything, to provide warmth & shelter in any situation. The dryrobe was designed to allow you to enjoy your free time, pastime or sport, more, by making those cold outdoor kit changes feel warm and aid performance & recovery.
What makes dryrobe special is there is no other product like it. It’s designed to be used either straight on wet skin, over wetsuits and wet & sweaty clothing. The lining doesn’t absorb moisture but the pile draws it quickly away from the skin, drying and warming you by insulating the body while eliminating the cooling effects of wind & rain.
TriBiz: Can you talk us through the dryrobe story?
GB: The idea came from a product that my mum made for me when I was 16 to keep me warm while changing for surfing. Getting a wetsuit on & off in the freezing winter in a car park was not fun, so she made me a big towel lined, full body length, tent like thing with an elasticated neck and a waterproof material outer, to get changed in.
I have to say it didn’t look too good but I didn’t mind because it worked! Later in life, I watched towel robes become popular but I was amazed that no-one made a weather-proof version like the one I had. So I set about making it myself and dryrobe was born.
TriBiz: Why do you feel dryrobe is the best product on the market and what separates it from your competitors?
GB: When you buy a dryrobe, you buy the authentic product, which was born from necessity. It is designed, built and continually refined with meticulous attention to detail. We protect the designs and no-one can replicate what we do and the way we do it.
You have to get hold of one to get the feel of the quality, and try it out to experience the way it works. Its apparent simplicity can be deceiving. Research and development is a big part of what we do and the focus is on innovation and performance. We supply dryrobe products for use by Olympic athletes so the performance has to be at the highest level possible.
I have no interest in dryrobe being anything else but the best product possible.
TriBiz: dryrobe has been a fast growing company – how do you plan to take it up another level nationally and internationally? What are your aspirations for growing distribution?
GB: The plans are in place for fast growth. We have already experienced strong growth rates in the UK and EU in particular; and we have seen huge interest in the products in the US since opening offices there back in December.
Our multi-year partnerships with US Masters swimming and their coaches along with the pro surfers, and world champion OCR (obstacle course race) athletes, are really creating a buzz around what we are bringing to the sports industry. It’s a very exciting time.
TriBiz: What countries in the EU have been most successful? Any particular reason? Are these simply where large numbers of triathletes are, e.g. Germany, or are there other reasons for market success?
GB: The dryrobe products have proved to be popular in Scandinavia, as you might expect. The swimmers endure some pretty challenging conditions there. We have also seen a lot of interest from Germany, since our visit to ISPO in January.
Also, France, Spain and Portugal all have large active communities who appreciate the benefits of protection from chilly morning wetsuit changes too.
TriBiz: Does dryrobe work with distributors, retail or go direct to consumer in each market? Or a combination of all of these?
GB: We use a varied approach but on the whole we like to build relationships with well positioned, established & respected retailers whilst retaining the benefits of our direct to consumer sales. The feedback we get from our online customers is a valuable part of how we work.
TriBiz: dryrobe has been particularly successful in the surf and triathlon worlds – why does the product work so well for these sports?
GB: The benefit of keeping protected from the elements while getting in and out of a wetsuit as well as hanging around wearing neoprene, or Lycra for that matter, while waiting to compete are not to be underestimated. Neoprene will insulate you in the water but if you have warmed up well then stand around in a wetsuit you will quickly cool.
It is common knowledge that an increase in muscle temperature will increase explosive start performance. So, staying warm and having the space to continue stretching or strip off into cold wet kit while protected from the elements has proved to be hugely beneficial to performance and recovery in controlled tests.
TriBiz: Are you going to expand into other products (for outdoor swimmers or for other athletes, for example)?
GB: Yes, we are very much focused on doing one thing and being the best at that; but there are some accessories and other closely related products that fit so well with the dryrobe brand that we are looking to make them available.
We can’t talk too much about these new offerings at this stage, but can say that some will be available before the end of the year. So, watch this space!
TriBiz: What other sports markets are you currently targeting, and would like to target in the future? And why would dryrobe suit those sports/activities?
GB: We realised very quickly that the benefits of the dryrobe work for anyone who changes for their sport. Once you see it, you get it and realise that it will make your sport or pastime more enjoyable. I originally designed dryrobe for surfing but there are virtually unlimited applications both outdoors and indoors.
These have opened up opportunities that we couldn’t have imagined at the outset. The challenge is staying focused and ensuring that we keep the core business of surf and endurance sport fully stocked.
TriBiz: How has your business expanded from an events perspective? What sort of events are you supporting and why?
GB: We are sponsoring the Castle Triathlon Series in a two-year deal, which we are very excited about. We have attended all of the major triathlon shows and expos over the past 3-4 years. There is now generally a good level of awareness of the products and what they are about when we are speaking to people at the events. We have also worked with the likes of Nuclear Rush, Toughest London and Red Bull Neptune Steps amongst other big name events.
TriBiz: Why were these events selected in particular? Was it gut feel, a good deal (!), or something particularly important about each event?
GB: Yes there is a lot of gut feel, along with an element of research into the events themselves. Over the years of visiting events & expos we have built up a knowledge of where we are most likely to reach the people who might not have seen dryrobe. We do like to have a real presence at the events we associate with so we can speak personally to people & really get involved to get the full value from the whole exercise; so we tend to do events we like the look of and would want to do ourselves.
As for the triathlon shows, we do like to be there, of course but we do have to apply our knowledge & be selective. The public know about brands & products before arriving at shows but they like to see them in the flesh. This is great for products like ours where the actual product impresses.
I think that there could be some smart thinking around how the shows are financed and who is benefiting from the activity. My feeling is that there is an opportunity here, but then I always think that!
TriBiz: Any other commercial or partnership tie-ups?
GB: In addition to being official sponsors of the Castle Triathlon Series for 2016-17, dryrobe has been used by Team GB elite triathlon since 2103.
We have also signed an exciting deal that will see dryrobe products provided dual-branded as Official ITU Merchandise. This is a big deal for us, and really validates what the dryrobe brand is about.
You also might have spotted BBC Radio 1 DJ Greg James using a dryrobe for his #gregathlon Sport Relief challenge. It was great to support this worthy cause, and it also gave dryrobe a lot of TV exposure, which wasn’t a bad thing!
With its ‘get changed, stay warm’ mantra, dryrobe has built a core following, and continues to expand in the obstacle, swim, surf, triathlon, dive, row and outdoor categories. The dryrobe has a waterproof & windproof exterior shell fabric and a lining that dries and keeps the athlete warm.
The design allows room to pull arms in through the sleeves and get changed inside it. Users can get a wetsuit, swimsuit or tri suit, on or off, while staying warm, dry and protected from the elements. Other features include, soft lined external pockets, a large internal storage pocket and an MP3 player pocket.
The standard Mid/Short sleeve dryrobe is £94.99 RRP and the Long Sleeve version is priced at £129. There is also a small size at £74.99, and a wide large range of colours are available.