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Tiffany Montgomery
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Neff resists alluring expansion offers for measured growth

By Tiffany Montgomery
October 19, 2009 7:02 AM

With snow resorts opening for business thanks to cold weather, I thought it would be a good time to write about the hat company Neff.

Neff makes irreverent beanies and hats that are sold in snow and skate shops, in addition to a limited amount of T-shirts, boardshorts and other clothing.

Neff board shortsStarted by Shaun Neff in 2002 as a T-shirt company, Neff switched to hats when he realized that he could assemble a stellar team of snowboarders and skaters if he focused on hats, rather than trying to compete with the athletes' big-money clothing sponsors.

Kevin Wattles, who heads up sales for Neff, said the company expects to grow 300 percent this year and said its revenues range from $5 million to $10 million.

The brand's designs have been described as "too wild" and "childish" by some, he said, but that irreverence is resonating with consumers.

Neff is in 1,100 retail accounts in the U.S. and distributed in 26 countries.

The company is self-financed and has good relationships with its factories, Kevin said. Every season pays for itself.

"We have 100 percent sell through," he said.

Neff's  customers have urged the brand to expand into other categories. But the company is cautious about growing too far, too fast.

Kevin has a very experienced business man in the family he has learned from: His brother, Mark Wattles, founded the movie rental chain Hollywood Video, which he sold in 2005 for approximately $1 billion, and Kevin watched the ups and downs of that business first hand.

"We want to grow, but we want to follow a growth model that makes sense," Kevin said. "There are advantages to being the small guy."

But, he added, "It's nice to be demanded."

 


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