Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The future of Yeti

Recently I was training new staff, people who would be working for the major outdoor retailer that I work for. A big part of their training is learning the multitude of products that we sell. When it was time to talk about Yeti - the expensive cooler company - I had us sit in a circle and talk about how we felt about the company.

For the record, I own a Yeti tundra 65 that lives in my van. I am very happy with it. My dog has already tried and failed to chew her way into it. If it is full, the ice lasts a very long time. If it is half full it is no better than a $40 cooler. But for what I need a cooler to do, I am very happy. My biggest complaint with cheap coolers is that I end up replacing them every 12 to 18 months because they can't hold up to the amount of abuse my work puts them through.

My sister has a theory. A toaster theory, that I think applies here. She thinks you can buy a $12 toaster, or a $300 Dualit toaster. If you buy the $12 toaster it will work fine, but you will replace it yearly. If you buy the Dualit, yeah it costs a lot more, and really they both just make toast, but for the rest of your life, you never have to go through the trouble of buying another toaster.. This is how I feel about Yeti coolers. At the end of the day it is just a cooler, but I will probably never have to buy another one.

So we were sitting in a circle, talking about Yeti and everyone agreed they were a good product, but pretty much everyone makes a Yeti style cooler, that costs less. The reason for this is that Yeti is a company owned by fisherman, who aren't great businessmen. How shall we say, they have had some patent issues. That is a story for another day.

What I said to these new hires was that I was curious to see how Yeti pivoted - which they would invariably have to do, to survive - and what markets they tried to slide into. My question was answered two short days later with the announcement of three new Yeti products.

First, the Yeti Boomer Dog bowl.

Built like a Yeti Rambler mug - and all the durability that goes with any Yeti product - this dog bowl will survive the perils of life with a dog that chews everything. Like mine. Oddly, I have an all metal dog bowl that has survived the perils of living with a dog that chews everything. It cost me $8. Which is $42 dollars less than the Yeti Boomer.

Next, The Tocayo Backpack.

A commuter backpack designed to shed water, and stand upright when you put it down on the ground. It also has rambler pockets - designed to hold their rambler mugs - and 360ยบ protection for a laptop. It looks like a capable backpack. But at $249 it is almost double the price of other commuter packs with a similar feature set.

and finally. The Lowlands Blanket. This highly durable, and padded blanket is water proof, and designed with pets and rough ground in mind. But at a staggering $199, I think I will be skipping it.

Now admittedly I haven't used any of these products. I have no doubt they are impeccably manufactured, and work as designed. But I can't help but think that this is not the direction that is going to save this company. I think they were doing better in the duffel bag market - the Pangea bag is really impressive, admittedly the waterproof duffel market is pretty small.

As a paddler I would love an insulated dry bag from them, like a tin 15 liter hopper bag. I just don't think this is the way to go. Sorry Yeti.

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