How Gary Kiedaisch is revolutionizing the cooler industry at Igloo Products Corp.

Gary Kiedaisch, chairman and CEO, Igloo Products Corp.
Gary Kiedaisch, chairman and CEO, Igloo Products Corp.

Consumer Products
Gary Kiedaisch
Chairman and CEO
Igloo Products Corp.

When Gary Kiedaisch and private equity firm J.H. Whitney first targeted Igloo Products Corp., Wal-Mart had successfully driven down cooler prices and had a 60 percent share of the cooler business. In addition, Wal-Mart had been rotating regional sales among the three main cooler suppliers — Rubbermaid, Igloo and Coleman — so that no company would be able to be dominant in the market.
Kiedaisch did not see the “Wal-Mart model” as sustainable, as it did not inspire consumers to buy new coolers. Instead, he saw the situation as an opportunity. Kiedaisch thought he could re-energize the category by giving consumers a reason to update their current coolers. He shared this vision for Igloo and the opportunity he saw and along with J.H. Whitney they purchased Igloo in October 2008 making Kiedaisch chairman and CEO.
Kiedaisch’s vision for Igloo Products Corp. faced two primary challenges. First, the economy was in a downturn and oil prices were on the rise, impacting the price of resin and increasing the cost to produce coolers. Secondly, he had to work around Wal-Mart and determine a way to move Igloo away from its buying and pricing practices either by growing sales outside of Wal-Mart or convincing Wal-Mart of a strategy to implement price differentiation.
Kiedaisch started growing the Igloo business outside of Wal-Mart through the use of specialty retailers and introducing features into the coolers that Wal-Mart was not able to offer. By creating an entrepreneurial organization, and empowering his employees, Kiedaisch and his team have been able to successfully implement more than 200 new products to the market. This resulted in Igloo being able to grow the business outside of Wal-Mart by 20 percent.
Kiedaisch met with the Wal-Mart board and presented his strategy and success in growing sales outside of Wal-Mart, ultimately convincing Wal-Mart to get in the game. As a result, Igloo went from having low margins and low profitability and getting beat up by Wal-Mart to developing a strategic partnership.
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