Skellefteå companies deliver sports equipment to the world

Several of the world's biggest sports competitions and activity parks around the world use equipment made in Skellefteå. Smart choices and successful ventures have contributed to a large proportion of Nordic Sports, Latitude 64 and Fugu Sports products being exported.

Nordic Sport is one of the world's largest manufacturers of athletics equipment. The Skellefteå company's products can be seen at all major championships such as the Olympics, World Championships and European Championships.
- We're at the heart of it all. The organisers have to buy the equipment that the world's elite use and our spears are world-leading and used by all the top athletes in the throwing events," says Nordic Sports CEO Emma Lundkvist.

Nordic Sport was founded in Arvidsjaur in 1972 and manufactured skis and ski poles. But when the fibreglass ski entered the world market a few years later, the then owner realised that it took more than just making skis to make the business work. In connection with this, the steel company Sandvik closed down its sports division, which among other things manufactured steel spears and vaulting bars, and Nordic Sport took over this business.
- Based on this, the company has built up a product range and today we supply everything that is needed in an athletics arena. The athletics part makes up 80% of our business, then we have a smaller part for football and ice hockey, which is mainly aimed at the Nordic market," says Emma.

In 1975, the office part was moved to Skellefteå. Today, the head office with sales, purchasing and finance departments is located at Anderstorp in Skellefteå. The production part remains in Arvidsjaur.

Record year in sight

Approximately 70 percent of Nordic Sports' products are exported. Emma notes that the biggest championships, such as the Olympics, the World Cup and the European Championships, are not the most profitable to sell to.
- They pay very poorly, sometimes not at all. The smaller championships are the really profitable ones. We've just shipped athletics equipment to the Pan American Games, which is as big as it gets on that continent, and we've also shipped equipment to the Indian Ocean Island Games in Mauritius. That's better business than, say, the Olympics," says Emma, adding:
"Then we have distributors all over the world who buy on an ongoing basis. The City of Stockholm is our biggest Swedish customer.

Nordic Sport currently has 17 employees. The company's turnover has been between 30 and 40 million in recent years, but most recently it went even higher.
- Turnover in 2019 landed at 44.5 million SEK and was thus a record year. One of the best of all time actually.

- We have met more customers over the past year and it seems to have paid off.
As a global player, there are both advantages and disadvantages to operating in Skellefteå.
- The disadvantage is the transportation. But we expect to recoup it in terms of premises and staff costs, which would be higher if we were operating in a metropolitan region," says Emma.

In-demand counters

In 2005, Latitude 64 was founded by the Bergsby quartet and disc golf enthusiasts Svante Eriksson, David Berglund, Tomas Ekström and Johan Åström.
- We had been practising and competing for several years and at the disc golf course in Bergsbyn, we got together and decided that we wanted to try making our own discs, says Svante.
In cooperation with the Skellefteå company Industriplast, they developed a test mould and started making discs.
- We worked with them for a couple of years before we decided to stand on our own two feet and buy our own moulding machine, says Svante.

The venture was a success and for several years the turnover increased by between 50 and 100 percent.
- We started the business in a basement in Bergsbyn but have since moved several times to larger premises.In 2017 we had a turnover of just over SEK 71 million and today we are based in Hedensbyn in premises of a few thousand square metres, says Svante and continues:
- A big reason for the success is that we were one of the first players to start manufacturing dishes after the patent on the modern dish by our American competitor Innova expired in 2005. The market was curious about what we, as a non-American manufacturer, could come up with and we continue to work on being at the forefront of materials and flight characteristics.

90 percent on export

About 90 percent of Latitude 64 production is exported, with a clear majority shipped to the U.S. where most of the players are located.
- Our products are sold through a variety of niche online and sports equipment stores, as well as select brick-and-mortar stores. The bigger the sport gets, the more major stores will be interested in carrying counters in their range," says Svante.

Who uses your discs?
- Everyone from beginners to pros. We sponsor players all over the world, including several in the world elite. For example, two of our sponsored players have won the World Championships on the men's side. But it's a dogfight for the best players these days. In the past, players were branded, now manufacturers have different teams year on year.

Several partnerships

New competitors have emerged and the market has therefore become tougher. However, Svante and his colleagues have received several proofs that the industry appreciates Latitude 64's products.

The Skellefteå company has long been working with Finnish Westside discs and American Dynamic discs, and now they are also partnering with another former competitor.
- Finnish-American Discmania had previously worked with Innova but contacted us and asked if we were interested in developing their best and most expensive series of discs. The series was an immediate success and the cooperation has expanded since then, says Svante.
He thinks that Skellefteå is a good city to work in.
- We have a good cooperation with the municipality's real estate company, from which we rent the premises. We live in a city where the freight companies have short decision-making lines and we get the service we need, says Svante.

Working on his hobby

In 2003, Kenneth Marklund and Håkan Eklund decided to turn their great passion - climbing - into a business. Today, the Skellefteå-based company Fugu Sports climbing holds can be found all over the world.

The original idea was to create training tools for climbers and the first product resembled a blowfish, "fugu" in Japanese, which gave rise to the company name. Kenneth and Håkan quickly switched to making climbing holds instead, and early on focused on holds for playgrounds and activity parks.
"We went around to schools and kindergartens and got some sales, while we got reference pictures and were able to spread the word that way," says Kenneth.

With the help of Region Västerbotten, Fugu Sports made contact with Norwegian playground manufacturer Norsk lek og park, which became one of the first customers.
- They still buy from us today. It's cool that they've been involved from the start," says Kenneth.

Increased demand

Kenneth and Håkan were involved when KFUM Skellefteå started climbing in 1989, and the duo still climbs over 200 days a year. In 2005, they joined forces with Hags Aneby, which supplies playgrounds all over the world.
"We had them as a customer for ten years until they decided to move their entire operation to Poland," says Kenneth.

Today, the Skellefteå company sells its climbing gear online, for example via the Addnature site, and in catalogues aimed at schools and preschools. Fugu Sports also supplies grips to Finnish company Lappset, which manufactures playgrounds and playground equipment that is sold globally.
- Our products can be found all over the world. For example, they have a distributor in Australia. That's great," says Kenneth.

The focus on boulder rocks has also been successful. Fugu Sports designs them according to the customer's wishes, for example with overhangs and cracks, and adds a surface layer to give them a "rock look".
- The demand for this product has skyrocketed, from doing a single project a year to each project now going into the next, says Kenneth.

Over the past three years, demand for Fugu Sports products has increased dramatically.
- That was when Ninja Warriors began to be shown on Swedish television. Since then, not only the dedicated climbers have been climbing, but also ordinary people are climbing walls instead of going to the gym. The whole industry has seen an upswing in recent years, and now it's all pointing upwards," says Kenneth.


Senast uppdaterad:
2 March 2023