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Out of Business: Kitsbow Issues ‘Tragic Update’

After just 15 months of employee ownership, the North Carolina company that sought to reframe the cycling apparel industry has succumbed to budget shortages.

a man and woman embrace in front of the kitsbow factoryKitsbow is permanently closing its doors; (photo/Kitsbow)
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Kitsbow — which described itself as the “only outdoor apparel company using lean manufacturing in the U.S.” — is no more.

In an emotionally worded statement, the cycling-focused company announced Tuesday that it would close because it could not “get enough operating capital to grow.” A recent funding round through WeFunder hauled in only about half of the $1 million target set by Kitsbow.

That was enough to cover its expenses at the time but not to survive long-term.

“It is devastating and disappointing — in ways that words cannot possibly convey,” the statement said, adding the closure is “terrible for our investors, new and old, and a blow to the tiny segment of our industry that is attempting to make apparel in the U.S. instead of overseas.”

Kitsbow sought to gain a foothold in that segment as a made-to-order shop with strict material sourcing and sewing standards. It also sought to invigorate the economy of tiny Old Fort, N.C. (population 815), where it was based.

“In each of the past three years, Kitsbow injected an annual payroll of approximately $2 million dollars into a rural town previously in economic decline for 30 years. Our presence sparked a resurgence of employers — two manufacturing operations have since followed to Old Fort, adding more jobs to the local economy,” the statement said.

The news comes after recent announcements from the brand suggested meaningful growth. Last year’s fall flannel line came ahead of this January’s launch of a platform to buy and sell used Kitsbow gear on the company website.

In Tuesday’s statement, Kitsbow also referenced “about-to-be-announced” retail partners in Raleigh, N.C.; Minneapolis; and Seattle.

Founded in 2012, Kitsbow became employee-owned in January 2022. As of the closure, it employed about 40 full-time workers. A tight venture-capital environment left the company’s decision-makers no choice but to cease operations, the company said.

“[W]e did everything humanly possible to avoid this outcome, including talking with new investors, exploring partnerships with other brands, and offering the possibility of purchase by other brands (and not being fussy about price). The economy has made all of those alternatives impossible,” it assessed.

Kitsbow will fulfill “Made to Order” purchases made as of the statement. It forecasts April 7 as its last day of production. As of now, everything on the Kitsbow website is on sale. Gear across the inventory had begun to sell out as of this writing.

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