Arctic Spirit soars to success
Company designed NWT Special Olympic team uniforms

Yellowknife (May 10/00) - Christopher Hunt leans back in his chair with a bottle of apple juice. He's sitting in the outdoor patio of Javaroma, wearing a grey Arctic Spirit golf shirt with black elastic trim around the cuffs. On the trim are white silhouettes of the three-legged polar bear.

"This is an original design," says Hunt pointing to the elastic trim on his golf shirt. "I have to order six more for my relatives. They tried to take it off my back when the saw it."

Relatives aren't the only ones clamouring to get their hands on Arctic Spirit merchandise.

Arctic Spirit, located in Centre Square Mall, has increased its profits 300 per cent since its near collapse in 1996. This year, sales totalled well over $1 million.

"The business was close to shutting down," says Hunt. "I proposed a business plan to the board of directors committing to change the direction."

"We had a few bad years," says Jim Lehman, Nunasi chief financial officer. "Some bad decisions were made," he says.

Nunasi Corp., a Nunavut-wide Inuit economic development corporation, bought Arctic Spirit from Landon Ritchie in 1992. The store was then named Wear It's At.

"In past years management lost focus, moving away from the logo of the polar bear," Hunt says. "I brought it back and it's working."

Hunt moved to Yellowknife eight years ago after earning three different bachelor degrees. He began working for his father, Fred Hunt, president of Nunasi. After jumping from project to project, he focused on Arctic Spirit and became its general manager.

"The sales volumes have tripled in the last few years," he says. "One of our biggest areas of growth has been corporate sales."

Corporate sales make up 75 per cent of Arctic Spirit's revenue. And 25 per cent of that comes from companies not owned by Nunasi Corp.

Arctic Spirit tempers the bottom line with community focus. The NWT Special Olympics team uniforms are designed by Arctic Spirit.

Eileen Gillard, employee for Arctic Spirit, worked for the business in the days of Wear It's At.

"Things have changed for the better," she says. "I love my work, I love my job."

Jim Erikson, director of marketing for Nunasi Corp., works on the periphery of Arctic Spirit.

"I'm a sounding board, I help when I can with the corporate relation side of things," he says. "But this is (Hunt's) baby."

Hunt leans back and drinks the last drop of his apple juice.

"I'm really stubborn," he says. "I want it to be a success."