Wolfman Luggage corners the adventure market
For almost 25 years, Wolfman Luggage has provided high-quality adventure luggage to riders around the world. Eric Hougen, owner and creative designer of Wolfman Luggage, has made quite a name for himself in the industry since 1992.
Hougen said Wolfman Luggage has earned a reputation as a high-quality product at a fair price. “Right now we’re having a record year; it’s the best year we’ve had. Product is flying out the door as fast as we can get it in,” he said.
A motorcycle enthusiast and avid rider, Hougen has owned close to 30 bikes over the past 25 years. He has been riding motorcycles for more than 40 years and uses that knowledge when designing Wolfman Luggage products.
“For me, I will always design for function and durability first over fashion, because in our world, fashion doesn’t last that long. Function outweighs fashion,” said Hougen. “We have built our reputation, and we can honestly say this is an investment. You’re investing in your riding and your enjoyment. By buying a product of ours, you can be confident, and you won’t have to worry about it.”
As creative director, Hougen is responsible for R&D, while his wife Lisa Luck-Hougen is in charge of the company’s marketing and sponsorships. Hougen is also a classically trained pattern maker, with a degree in apparel production.
In fact, Hougen admits he still uses some of the same pencils that he had in college, along with the original sewing machine he purchased as a graduation gift. “I don’t let anyone else sew on it anymore,” he said. “Everything is done with a pencil and a ruler. As one person said to me, ‘that’s real time.’
“I create from a product standpoint, not a branding standpoint, so all of designs I have created, and I get a little input here and there from people,” said Hougen. “Also from a manufacturing side: How do we make these as easily and efficiently as possible? Because if I can make a bag easier, that means we get it out of production quicker.”
While the original goal was to use outside manufacturing and rely on a fulfillment center, Hougen says it worked better for the company to run these processes itself. In 2015, Wolfman Luggage brought its fulfillment center back in-house, and today all the shipping and warehousing is also located in Longmont, Colorado.
Hougen says he has worked to make his bags 15 percent quicker to manufacture, but that the cost of the materials evens out the money saved with speed. “We became debt free, which has been a really luxurious thing for us. So we run a very lean, conservative business. A lot of the money goes back into the business with inventory, raw materials, manufacturing and all that,” he said.
The company has also helped benefit several organizations, including the Trail Preservation Alliance, alongside the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition and a corporate sponsorship of Backcountry Discovery Routes.
Wolfman Luggage uses a dealer direct distribution model, and Hougen says it is important to the company to source as many materials from the U.S. as possible. Wolfman products are completely manufactured in the U.S.
In recent years, Hougen has focused on updating and refining existing products, such as the Rocky Mountain saddlebags. Hougen said that when he redesigned the bags, he went through six separate ideas on paper before reaching the final pattern.
Looking ahead to 2017, Hougen predicts a heavy planning year with increasing brand awareness and visibility within the industry. The company is even looking into reintroducing wearable products like T-shirts and hats.
Hougen believes his end user is the most important part of his business. Therefore, he strives to always take care of his customers and offers a full repair service for the luggage lineup. “It’s an investment into your passion; we’re helping you get out there,” said Hougen.