Corona Diaries #15, Paul Robertson, Palm Equipment (Uk)
Outside, rivers are starting to flow and spring is around the corner, and the sun is shining high. Yet around the world, many are grounded at home and it seems likely others soon will be. Though difficult, let’s repeat it, folks this is THE THING TO DO! It is necessary and worth it!
So, we at Kayak Session decided to take the opportunity to catch up with our friends in the whitewater community and see how they are coping across the globe.
Today we talk with Palm Equipment and Dagger Europe Marketing head honcho Paul Robertson.
How zit Paul, where are you and what is the situation like where you are?
I’m at home, in the Highlands of Scotland, watching all four seasons pass by the window as usual – currently it’s the 20 minute sunshine slot! I usually split my time between here, our factory near Bristol plus other travelling. I’ve been here for about three weeks now, as we stopped non-essential travel quite early, but I’m lucky, its pretty rural so I can get out biking, walking and paddling.
Where is Palm at the moment and how long should that last would you say?
We reacted early to change ways of working in our factory in the UK. Non-essential travel, increased hygiene equipment, reduction in visits and other measures were all activated about a month ago. We also decided to shut down completely about a week before the lockdown came into force. Apart from a small group, staff have been furloughed and as to how long it will last, we are taking it week by week. The bottom line is we couldn’t ask the team to work in the factory environment and maintain social distancing.
« Now is not the time to be competing; it’s time for sharing, enjoying what we have; and simply trying to keep it community ».
You are throwing fun online contest every week at the moment, that are new and different to the how to stay fit kinda videos we see a lot…
Yep, the fitness folks are on it … there’s literally no excuse left; people are summiting Everest on their stairs! Our product plans went out the window for the season and instead we changed our focus. Now is not the time to be competing; it’s time for sharing, enjoying what we have; and simply trying to keep it community. We’ve been ramping up efforts to get kids paddling for a while, and our event support this year was going to be focused that way. So, it seemed natural to keep that going and convert the #PalmGroms plan into a series of fun activities for kids to do at home. Whilst these are unsettling times, we feel it’s important that kids can look back on this period positively; hanging out with family and doing stuff that is a bit different.
We’ve called in our designers and brand friends to help set the challenges, give some tips and be the judges. It’s great fun. We’ve just finished a kit design challenge where dinosaurs featured, and now it’s the Foamie Boater model making challenge!
« The making of the Nevis video in particular gives a lot of insight into the PFD and how Palm goes about development, so worth a watch … if say, you found yourself with time on your hands! »
Right before the close-out you launched your new award winning PFD the Nevis tell us more about the launch (video etc…) and the product itself.
It’s been a joy to see it out in the wild…albeit only for a short time before everything ground to a halt. Its been over three years work, from a solid team, and we are super proud of the result and the reaction. The making of the Nevis video in particular gives a lot of insight into the PFD and how Palm goes about development, so worth a watch … if say, you found yourself with time on your hands!
In what way has Covid-19 impacted your plans for the season?
Well we launched about sixty new items for 2020 and have a warehouse maxed out with product and boats sat waiting to go, so yep, there’s some impact! I’ve had to cut back on some plans and that’s hard, because it’s stuff you want to support, like grass roots events or paddler support. Truly the impact depends on how long folk have to remain off the water. But on the upside it’s also a time to take stock. It’s not often you get chance to stop, reflect and maybe even reset a little.
« But I’m buoyed by two things: lockdown has proven that many people are still determined to enjoy being outside, and can’t wait to do so, and the paddlesport community is as strong as ever and therefore I think robust.«
What is your prediction for this year – are you pessimistic, reasonable optimistic?
There are so many interdependencies in this industry: from brands and shops who make and sell gear; coaches and ambassadors who inspire, and media, like KS, who help promote – each part is at risk. Honestly it would be naïve to say we will all come out as before.
But I’m buoyed by two things: lockdown has proven that many people are still determined to enjoy being outside, and can’t wait to do so, and the paddlesport community is as strong as ever and therefore I think robust.
It’s a case of hunkering down and using the rainy-day fund if needed. Our focus is to come out able to pick back up, retain our staff, and where we can, assist the trade.
In what way can you help the retail business cope with the current situation?
First thing we did, and are still doing, is keeping customers informed. Regularly explaining our situation and the steps we are taking and through our reps sharing information that may help them. Many stores and centers have had to shut their doors and so the main message is not to forget them, they’ll need your help when they re-open.
What is the British population reaction to the stay home – is it respected?
Initially no. it was a shit show. People acted like it was a great big holiday, and that’s partially the UK government’s fault for not using clear messaging and for the majority of the population it seemed a bit abstract. Turning the public’s attention away from politicians to the effect on health services and font line workers has been the single most effective deterrent.
Any words of wisdom for your fellow paddlers across the world?
Yeah, Everest is on your stairs and the Stikine looks like it will be there next year!