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Twilight star Ashley Green and a friend show off their Tundra Gear hats with Packer pins.

Rad Hatter
Tundra Gear Shows It Has a Head for the Licensed Marketplace
January 11, 2011

Everyone plots a different course to the Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show. But it’s a safe bet that no one has taken a more circuitous route than Aras Baskauskas, director of operations for Tundra Gear. Baskauskas traces his immediate family roots back to Lithuania. He has also spent time in Africa, and perhaps most notable, Baskauskas was the winner of “Survivor: Exile Island,” which was filmed in Panama.

The idea for Tundra Gear initially came to Baskauskas when he was attending business school in California. His father owned a company called Baltic Rim, which was one of the first U.S. importers of Russian hats. Baskauskas, a former college athlete, ran with the concept and added an ingenious twist—licensed custom-made pins to adorn each “ushanka.”

“We started out doing NCAA pins,” says Baskauskas. “Then we moved into the NFL and NHL. In some instances, the pins actually sell better than the hats.”

2010 was a big year for Tundra Gear. According to Baskauskas, the company doubled it sales from 2009, not a bad accomplishment given the economic times. “We pride ourselves on relationships,” he says. “We always make sure our retailers and consumers are happy.”

Last year, Tundra Gear made its debut at the Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show—almost by accident. Baskauskas learned about the event just a few days before it began and scrambled to set up an exhibit. He was glad he did.

Hats and pins from Tundra Gear sell well separately or as a package deal.

“We made a sale on the first day of the show,” he recalls.

This year, Baskauskas has loftier goals. “We want to get our products in more stores,” he says. “In Las Vegas, we’re going to work hard to spread the word about Tundra Gear. For instance, we‘ve dropped the wholesale price of our hats by a dollar.”

That effort will include aggressive implementation of social media. “We’re on the cutting edge,” he says. “For example, we’ve created web portals for select NFL players, who in turn do a lot of twittering about Tundra Gear. In many ways, we feel we’ve just scratched the surface in terms of viral marketing.”

Of course, Baskauskas also believes that his hats and pins can sell themselves. “These are new products that people love,” he says. “When they see them, touch them and feel them, they want them.”




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