Dec
04
2018

Where Has All The Army Surplus Gone?

DAS Outdoors

Okay, so where has all the army surplus gone?

The point of writing this is to clear up any and all confusion.

Since the recent redundancies have become public, there's been a few questions on our Facebook page.

  • Why are we just promoting shelters?
  • Where are the posts about the army surplus bits you have?

I had thought that we'd addressed this at the beginning of 2018, but obviously, the communication that we put out hasn't been clear enough, or it wasn't sustained enough.

Are you wondering what the hell's going on too?

Let me bring you up to speed.

To help you understand where we are, where we've come from, and perhaps more importantly, where we're heading.

We've got 1000s of parachutes in stock.

We've been deliberately securing them since 2016.

Currently, we're the UK's largest provider of genuine parachute shelters.

Over the years, we've invested a lot of time into research, prototyping and development work...

Hours, days if you like, have been spent turning the humble military parachute into fantastic outdoor spaces that you can use to have even more fun outside.

If you follow our social media channels, you'll know all too well of our successes and failures!

We're really excited about this evolution and where the company is heading.

We want our future to be bright!

That's why you've just been hearing all about shelters because that is where we see our future.

I want to be sitting here in another 30 years time talking to you guys and celebrating 60 years in business.

We don't believe that we could achieve that if we stick with army surplus.

My parents and I have been discussing the shrinkage of the surplus trade for the last 3-4 years.

Both, from an internal perspective, and also then from an industry-wide perspective.

The surplus knowledge we have is going to leave us.

We are concerned that most of the surplus knowledge we have is held inside my dad's head.

It would be a mammoth task, bordering on the impossible, to pull that information out, into some sort of document to pass down to either myself or to team members.

We've tried!

The army surplus trade is equally frustrating and beautiful.

There are fantastic items that you see come through the system, but you might see them for six months, and then not see them again for another 10 years.

The trouble is, you never know if that's going happen.

You can never be sure that this is the point that we need to extract that information from my Dad and put it into some kind of system...

Just in case we need it in 10 years time.

The surplus industry is massively different from what it was 30 years ago when my parents started.

At the time, anybody could go along to a MOD auction and bid on the stock, buy by the tonne, and sell it on.

That's how Mum and Dad started!

Those auctions disappeared a long time ago.

Now one company gets every single piece of army surplus.

They are the wholesaler.

It's been working like that 15 - 20 years.

Since the rise of eCommerce, it has become easier for wholesalers to retail directly to you.

If you're a fan of army surplus, you've probably bought something from them, even if you didn't realise.

As well as being our suppliers, that wholesaler is our biggest retail competitor.

This causes us a great deal of difficulty.

Increasingly, it is becoming harder and harder to stock items and sell them competitively.

That's been tough, but we have protected ourselves.

We have a good size plot of land, which means we can store lots of stock.

Over the years Dad has bought in bulk.

Stockpiling gear for a long time, which has given us an edge.

That stock has been slowly been disappearing though.

You have been buying it!

Which we are obviously really grateful for...

Thank you.

Cuts to MOD funding and a change in how they purchase clothing and equipment has meant there isn't the volume of army surplus coming through the system.

This hasn't just affected us.

Wholesalers have been buying back stock from us because they're really struggling to get hold of stuff too.

All of this has impacted on our stock levels.

3 years ago we had 15 shipping containers full of army surplus items, now we've only got 4!

There's also a psychological battle that we have with some customers.

Army surplus lasts such a long time that it could be 10 - 15 years since you bought that pair of boots or that jacket from us.

We still remember it costing 8 quid and struggle with the idea that the same or similar item now costs nearer £30 or more.

The future...

Can be uncertain.

There's been a whole host of things that have led us down this path.

What I do know, is this.

If we don't do something, if we don't make a change and blindly continue to do what we've always done we will not be here in another 30 years time.

It would mean we wouldn't be here in 3!

I took a big strategic look at the company at the back end of 2017.

As a result, we accelerated our transition from army surplus into parachute shelters.

I announced internally to the company, in January 2018 that all we were going to focus on was parachute shelters.

We're are going to turn decommissioned military parachutes into fantastic outdoor spaces for you, and we're gonna do it extremely well.

In some respects, that transition's been working really well.

As I said at the beginning, you have noticed that we are you only talking about parachute shelters.

The transition has taken longer than I'd envisioned though.

I was perhaps a bit naive.

Maybe I should have started the transition sooner?

Army surplus sales have decreased, as we predicted, but the parachute shelters haven't taken off as quickly as we hoped.

Which is why we had to make the horrible decision in November, to let three members of the team go.

Where does that leave you?

We still have some surplus items in stock, although that reduces each week that passes.

You may or may not know about the £5 bunker, a 40 ft shipping container we have on site, full of army surplus bargains for £5 or less.

We have duplicated a lot of the things in there on eBay because I know you've told us that you can't always way get down here.

Remember though, we don't have the volume of stuff that we used to and will be closing the bunker in April 2019.

army surplus

Where Has All The Army Surplus Gone?

We held on as an out and out army surplus store for a long time, a lot longer than many others in the industry.

However, changes within the army surplus industry have started to impact us, which is why we have to shift focus.

To protect the future of the business, and that's fundamental.

I can't see us ever going back to army surplus.

I'm incredibly excited about the parachute shelters.

Seeing the fun, and the joy that you guys are having with your families in the outdoors is brilliant.

It really is lovely to see, and I want to continue that for as long as possible.

Who is DAS Outdoors?

DAS Outdoors is the UK's leading provider of parachute shelters.

We repurpose and manufacture them from ex-military parachutes in our warehouse, in North Wales.

We're a small family-run company, made up of myself, my Mum and my Dad.

I'm hugely confident our future and hope that after a period of consolidation that we can rebuild our team.

It was not how I thought we'd end my parents' 30th year in business.

I will feel guilty of that for a long time to come...

Thank You

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and for all of your support.

If you're a lover of army surplus, please come in and see us and check out the bunker while it lasts.

If you're a bit too far away, check out our eBay listings.

There are some real bargains there.

If you are looking for ways to spend even more time outside with your family, then please take a look at our shelters.

There may be one for you!

Parachute Shelter Link


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2 comments

  • Dave Blackwell: December 06, 2018

    Hey Rich,
    I’ve only recently seen the issues that you’ve been going through & for sure you guys have had to ride out some rough waters. As one of the best suppliers in a niche industry sector, that’s got to be as tough as any business, especially when the supply/demand environment is changing as much as it is, not just in surplus but across the world.
    I knew from our previous chats when I’ve come to visit, that you’d at least have your eyes on the ball when hard times came a-calling & this message certainly has underlined just that. The tough decisions you’ve had to make won’t have come easy since I know you & Dad have a genuine sense of care & affection both to your staff as well as your customers – that is something that speaks volumes for the DAS brand & the family name. It carries well that you’ve made the decisions & taken the steps with humility & grace, even though the path is not a clear one.
    I’m going to try & get across sometime before the new year if I can both to see what you’ve got in the bargain bucket but also the bigger sizes. I might well have shed 60 lbs since june (no, I’m not sick… just motivated) but let’s face it, I still need something that won’t ride up with wear.
    Stay strong, the future IS bright for those willing to make the movement towards it & who knows… perhaps there’ll be enough demand to be able to rehire the valued team members that you weren’t able to keep on.
    You know I wish you all well now & for the new direction you;re going in.
    Best wishes to you all,
    Dave

  • Ian: December 05, 2018

    Hi Rich,
    Wow! That is a lot to take in. The changes you have been forced to make are obviously having a huge affect on you and I certainly don’t envy your position when such tough decisions have to be made. It is particularly hard when those decisions involve redundancy for people you have worked with for a long time and very apparent from your video that the sorrow and guilt are weighing heavily on you. I’m sorry to learn that the way your mum and dad built up the business is no longer viable (although I do understand the reasons) but in a rapidly changing world, digging your head in the sand and wishing things would stay the same as they always used to be, is not going to do any good.
    I wish you well with your plan to corner the world market in bespoke parachute shelters and if anyone can do it – the Brady family can! Shame to end the 2018 like this but look forward to next year and the possibility that by building on your vision, you will be able to offer employment once again.
    P.S. have you got any good boots for a tenner?

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