Kayak Makers KL Outdoor, GSC Technologies Merge  

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The Sun Dolphin Aruba
The Sun Dolphin Aruba

Two of the biggest rec kayak manufacturers in the industry, Michigan-based KL Outdoor and Quebec-based GSC Technologies, have merged to form Hemisphere Design Works.

Announced May 8 in KL Outdoor’s homebase of Muskegon, Mich., the move is designed to take advantage of rapidly growing consumer demands in the kayaking segment, the newly formed company, Hemisphere Design Works (HDW), is estimated by company executives to become the world’s largest maker of kayaks.

Company leaders maintain that the existing HDW house of brands currently commands an industry leading 30 percent of the market, and with a forecast of double-digit growth through 2020, its leading flagship brands Sundolphin, Future Beach and Evoke are positioned to capitalize on this demand. They cite studies showing that the U.S. kayak market is forecasted to grow by up to 10.7% by 2020, with an estimated demand of more than 1 million kayaks needed to fulfill this growth.   

Sun Dolphin manufacturers entry-level rec kayaks sold primarily at big box retailers. A search on the Internet shows the 8-foot Sun Dolphin Aruba sit-on-top kayak retailing for $148 at Walmart. Evoke Kayaks are higher-end, retailing at outlets like Cabella’s and Academy Sports.  Also carried in big box outlets, Future Beach kayaks range from $219.99 for the 6’6” Sprinter Junior to $439.99 for the 10’4” discovery 124F.

HDW is planning to accelerate its market share by ramping up production.

“The creation of Hemisphere Design Works enables us to better position our brands and capitalize on the projected growth over the next two-to-four years,” says CEO Chuck Smith. “Our goal with this merger and repositioning is to not only cement our place as the industry leader, but to also set our company up to generate higher production yields while also expanding our overall distribution capabilities.” 

HDW’s long term plan is to create an industry leading entity that can facilitate organic growth, gain potential acquisitions and continue to design and make boats that appeal to beginners and advanced paddlers alike. HDW has begun consolidating its current brand portfolio to increase production capacity, provide a more focused and higher quality product, and better accommodate growing retailer demands.

To deliver on orders faster and more efficiently, it’s also bringing a new plant online in Atlanta to be the cornerstone of a planned expansion into the Southeast region. With its expanded production and distribution capabilities, it’s hoping to expand into independent retailers and grow its retail presence of all its brands.

“We’re more than just a company of brands,” says VP of Sales and Marketing Wes Mooney. “Our goal isn’t just to sell more kayaks, it’s to elevate kayaking into the forefront of recreational pastimes, and we are now positioned to make this happen with more production power, better distribution, and the marketing influence to succeed.”