CenterStone has been thrilled to provide wholesale B2B e-commerce solutions for 5.11 Tactical for the past 7 months. A growing brand that has found success in both military/law enforcement markets and the direct-to-consumer market, we can’t wait to see 5.11 Tactical continue to grow. Even more exciting for us is that we get to be along for the ride as their wholesale e-commerce and OMS (Order Management Software) partner. If you’d like to hear about the history of the brand and its remarkable beginnings, keep reading below. If you’d like to find some of their world-class gear, visit their website.
5.11 Tactical, started by Royal Robbins and then expanded by Dan Costa, is a Modesto, California-based tactical apparel and equipment manufacturer.
The company first started with a single pair of pants; when Robbins was climbing in Yosemite, he realized that he needed more durable and better fitting trousers.
The name itself comes from rock climbing as well; 5.11 is the highest climbing difficulty level in the Yosemite Decimal System and is a reference to how the brand originally came to be created. Robbins eventually sold the line to Dan Costa, who recognized its potential within law enforcement spheres (their gear, especially their pants, was becoming quite popular with the FBI). As a result, Costa partnered with the FBI after founding 5.11 Tactical, the new line, in 2003, and began to cater to military and law enforcement agencies, developing the apparel and uniforms that these specific groups needed and demanded. It proved to be a very successful venture, as the company is now expected to bring in around $300 million plus in revenue this year. In addition, the brand has started to expand into the direct-to-consumer sphere and has also managed to be quite effective in reaching clients through targeted advertising campaigns.
The primary customer base for 5.11 Tactical is, of course, law enforcement, military, and public safety personnel. Their entire brand is based around providing the best fitting and highest quality gear, uniforms, and equipment for these types of clients, and this is what they excel at. Their classic 5.11 pants began the close relationship that they share with the FBI in particular and were the beginning of their foray into creating and producing apparel designed around durability, quality, and value. These are their primary goals when it comes to making the gear that they sell; it is their founding principle. Their specialty lies in creating field uniforms that look like SWAT team apparel, and so far, most of their success has come from selling tactical gear to both the military and various law enforcement agencies. Costa was a key figure in helping nurture the brand; he allowed it to find its footing and guided it on a clear path in order to truly maximize its potential. Without his lead, 5.11 Tactical might not have been as well-known or as successful as it is today. While Costa is no longer in charge of the brand (Tom Davin is now the Chief Executive Officer), his impact is still being felt in how the brand operates. The company does not just sell to domestic public safety agencies; it has also managed to tap into the international market. It was recently selected to design gear for both Ukraine’s and Nepal’s militaries and has consistently looked for ways to further increase its international foothold. It is evident that 5.11 Tactical is constantly scouting out new and original ways to enlarge its revenue.
While they have made their success in selling to various law enforcement agencies, 5.11 Tactical has also been looking to expand their audience and has committed to pursuing a direct-to-consumer model as well. What was once based on dealer relationships and private buyers has now transformed to include public customers as well, particularly through their online presence. If 5.11 Tactical wanted to increase its revenue, it would have to reach out to a more mainstream client base, which it has managed to do rather well. Their e-commerce revenue has grown immensely since their targeted email campaigns began; without the specific advertising that 5.11 Tactical utilized, the manufacturer would not enjoy nearly as much success as it does through its e-commerce ventures. Its website has been one of the main factors in expanding its client base; it is one of the key ways in which public, and not private, consumers can be reached. Their online revenue is now over $10 million annually, and this growth shows no signs of stopping. It is a good sign for the company, and it is clear that consumers, and not just law enforcement agencies, are drawn to the brand’s apparel and equipment as well. If they can continue to sustain this growth, then the manufacturer will perhaps be able to capture a larger share of the mainstream consumer base, and possibly widen its selection and offerings as well.
The company, if it can manage to retain its public consumer base, in addition to its more steady law enforcement buyers and international clients, can truly grow into a formidable brand and manufacturer. Compass Diversified Holdings, based in Connecticut, bought the company this year for almost $400 million. Tom Davin has stated that he has no plans to lay off any employees, nor will the company move out of its Irvine, California headquarters. He has praised the acquisition, stating that the two companies have similar interests, and it is reassuring that Compass understands a middle market brand such as 5.11 Tactical, and will allow the brand to do what it needs in order to augment its focused consumer model. Perhaps the recent successes of its e-commerce ventures and their foray into a direct-to-consumer model will strengthen the company’s revenue and earnings. It remains to be seen how Compass’s purchase will affect 5.11 Tactical’s overall operations, but so far, it seems to have had a positive effect.
In all, 5.11 Tactical, a California-based tactical gear and equipment brand that first started out as a rock climbing apparel line, has evolved into a $300 million a year manufacturer that primarily markets its gear to law enforcement agencies and military personnel. It has now expanded into e-commerce and has pursued a direct-to-consumer model as well, and has been successful in these ventures. It is inspiring to see a brand that started as a single pair of pants evolve into a company that is as sought-after as 5.11 Tactical is today.