Asics sees now-final Haglofs acquisition as its entrée to outdoor market

The deal is now sealed, stamped, signed and delivered: Japanese sports giant Asics owns premium Swedish outdoor brand Haglofs. The acquisition means Asics will now have a stake in outdoor. SNEWS talks to the companies for more.
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With the acquisition by global sports giant Asics of boutique Swedish outdoor brand Haglofs now final, the deal is described as the open door for Asics to the outdoor market – a door that may have been closed before.

“The outdoor sports business is something very special, and we know the difficulty of getting into this business under the brand name of Asics,” Asics spokesman Katsumi “Bob” Funakoshi in the company’s international headquarters in Kobe, Japan, told SNEWS. 

When the deal was announced on the eve of the OutDoor show in Germany in July, the European community was abuzz about what it could mean. Haglofs is ingrained in the market there, although its retail strength remains in Sweden but has expanded in the last few years across Scandinavia and into Europe. It, however, is also well-known in Japan, where it’s been doing business for 15 years, Haglofs sales and marketing director Nicolas Warchalowski told SNEWS at the OutDoor show.

But making it across the Atlantic to the United States, as well as to other countries, has been a far-off dream on a very long-term wish list for the nearly 100-year-old company, Warchalowski said.

“It’s very difficult to go there,” he said, speaking of the U.S. arena. “But I think there is a market there for us. We have always had the goal to be a global outdoor brand.”

The deal was announced July 12, 2010 – closing officially Aug. 20 – with Asics Corp. agreeing to purchase 100 percent of Haglofs (www.haglofs.se) for $133.42 million, calculated at the then-exchange rate.

The marriage may be one made in heaven -- with Asics (www.asics.com) seeking a foot in the outdoor door with an authentic brand name and Haglofs looking to expand globally.

Haglofs focuses on core outdoor products from apparel to packs to footwear for mountaineering, backpacking, skiing and other activities. Its founder Victor Haglof made his first backpack in 1914. This is the company’s fifth owner. It was acquired by Ratos in 2001 and has grown to having sales of approximately USD $81 million in 2009, according to the company

HaglofsHaloIIJacket.jpg

Asics was founded in 1949 with the goal, according to the company, “to contribute to the healthy growth of young people through sports.” Although well-known for its running segment, it is also a total sporting brand, especially in Japan, Funakoshi explained. Its mission statement states its goal is to be the No.1 brand for sports enthusiasts. Asics Corp. is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and Osaka Securities Exchange in Japan and had revenues of approximately USD $2.5 billion for the 2009/2010 year ending March 31, 2010.

Asics’ so-called Challenge Plan 2010 explains the company is “focused on further growth and expansion of our business on a global basis” and points to expanding apparel into lifestyle and broadening the reach of its running products. It also states an aggressive exploration of M&A opportunities, “including the alliance with other companies to boost or supplement the existing businesses within our group.” 

Despite the statement that implies the potential of additional deals, Funakoshi told SNEWS otherwise: “We don’t have any plans to add other companies to the Asics group at this moment.”

Simply put, with the acquisition, Haglofs will become the avenue for Asics to enter outdoor. Whether it comes to North America or when is still to be discussed in detail, he added.

Warchalowski said he sees the move to the United States as one taken in small steps.

“America is like an elephant,” Warchalowski added, noting how they have seen too many European brands crash and burn there. “You have to dissect it.”

But the future at this point overall seems bright with a toolbox of resources from Asics.

“We’re super excited,” Warchalowski said. “This brings great opportunities to the brand.”

--Therese Iknoian

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