David Pritchard has seen it all in 35 years at Gill North America. The Senior Vice President carries a lofty title, but Pritchard is as down-to-Earth as it gets. He’s a seasoned sailor and boater, and he’ll readily admit that selling fishing apparel was never in the cards for Gill until recently.
Still, a recent CarecoTV study concluded that Gill is the second most popular outerwear brand for collegiate anglers. That’s saying a lot—the company has only been in the market since 2010.
“We got into the fishing by accident,” Pritchard says. “Pro bass fishermen started approaching us, because they were looking for better equipment. A lot of the private label big box brands were not meeting the needs of the anglers out there fishing 300 days a year. So, we started to sell them gear.”
Eight years after shoe-horning sailing gear into the fishing market, Gill is now devoting a considerable amount product development and marketing resource to developing the sport fishing segment in North America. On the heels of full-time pros like Dean Rojas, Randall Tharp, and Marty Robinson, they’ve carved out a niche as one of the most revered brands in outerwear. The fact that they did it by accident speaks to their credit. It’s not a lack of attention, but rather a strong core competence in marine technical product design that meets the needs of the fishing community.
Pickwick Lake, Tennessee—Two years ago, I found myself sailing a 32-foot sloop across the Tennessee River Reservoir in early winter. The December winds were rocking. White caps licked above the lake’s famously green water; and the captain and I were the only souls foolish enough to brave the lake. Bass boats were nowhere in sight. Barges seemed scarce. And the wind gauge on our mast registered 42 knots.
Clearly, we’d misjudged the wind before setting off. But with night closing in miles away from harbor, all we could do was reef the sails and keep trucking. On my back—unsponsored—was a Gill FG2 Tournament Jacket. And while winds ripped, and waves rushed over the boat’s deck, the jacket gave me warm piece of mind.
I don’t typically give personal testimony on products in the pages of FTR. But I’ll testify to that.
“The FG2 Tournament Suit is a cornerstone product for us,” says Pritchard. “ Developed by our in house product development team and battle tested by our Pro Elite Staff – for anglers by anglers.”
Indeed, mine still hangs in a Memphis closet, awaiting another fight with winter’s fiercest winds.
Gill took a giant leap forward into fishing with the development of the FG21 and introduction of its VorTex hood. “That came out of the race car industry, where guys are driving open air carts at a high rate of speed. A vacuum behind the head forms and tries to pull the hood off, similar to a bass boat at speed. So, we made a hood that would stay on over a ball cap at top speed in a bass boat, and we tested it with the pros, launching the tournament jacket and bibs.” We now offer an insulated version of the vortex hood in the FG25 Insulated suit style.
Online retailers are having a field day with the company’s products. Tackle Warehouse and Tackle Direct are both showing growing numbers behind the brand, as are traditional retailers like the Thorne Brothers and Franks in the Midwest, and Crook and Crook in Florida. Gill has also made inroads in recent years with Academy and Cabela’s, and Pritchard says independent dealers are contacting the sales team on a regular basis, cherry-picking the lineup for their own markets.
“We do everything from warm water, warm air UV protection, to cold water, cold air full-on protection from the wind and the rain,” he adds. Interactive layering , gloves and Dry bag line round out the offer . Gill is an ideal line for dealers with 24/7 on line real time availablity and ordering.
“We continue to stretch as a brand out of side sailing and into fishing and power boating and now active outdoor wear.” Gill is a 45 year “ young” technical marine brand with distribution in over 40 countries . Our leadership senior team is very ambitious and providing the capacity and creating demand as we continue to build our base in the North American market.
Now, with an army of US anglers behind the brand, Pritchard is encouraged by the progress..
This month, Gill released its Fall 2018 lineup. In a few weeks, its Spring 2019 lineup will debut, ready to order. “We want to give retailers an opportunity to benefit from holiday promotions,” says Pritchard. “We are delivering Spring 2019 in early November of 2018 to take advantage of holiday business and to help our dealers out with new marketing.”
For dealer inquiries, visit Gill’s website here.