Black Diamond promises marketing push to ramp up apparel sell-through

Well-established outdoor hardgoods brands are finding that it takes a bit more marketing and branding to play in the crowded softgoods space.

Well-established outdoor hardgoods brands that flocked to the apparel world in recent years are finding that it takes a bit more marketing and branding to play in the crowded softgoods space.

Case in point: Black Diamond, which debuted its entry into apparel a year ago. On Monday, company officials told investors the brand will ramp up its marketing to better support its retailers and increase sell-through of the line.

Key outdoor retailers, such as REI, are calling for better results, Black Diamond CEO Peter Metcalf said.

“Given that our apparel line has just embarked on its second fall season and season number three of a full six season rollout, we recognize the sell-through rates need to improve to a level that some of our largest partners like REI will continue distributing our apparel throughout all or most of their stores.”

Metcalf said Black Diamond’s apparel was in 27 of REI’s stores, and the retailer increased its fall 2014 BD Apparel orders versus fall 2013, but there was room for improvement to get into more stores.

“Our two key marketing initiatives for Fall 2014 are to build brand, equity, awareness and apparel sell-through,” he said. “We are positioning Black Diamond Equipment as the leader in snow safety.

Metcalf highlighted several digital marketing campaigns with magazines and their websites as part of the push in addition to partnering with retailers on “apparel window displays, brand kits, apparel banners, apparel tech kits, apparel body forms and apparel hangers.” Black Diamond also will continue its presence at “the two biggest climbing events in North America — the Yosemite Facelift and the Bozeman Ice Festival.”

The brand and marketing push will serve as key underpinnings to Black Diamond’s future omni-channel sales strategy, Metcalf said.

“It's about really great digital and in-store storytelling that supports customer engagement socially as well as for commerce in any channel with BD, so whether it's a store of ours, online or the specialty partners,” he said. “And so right now what we have focused first and foremost on this winter is working to support our specialty partners to make sure that they know we’re committed to their success with our apparel as they are.”

By the numbers, Black Diamond Inc. (which includes Black Diamond, Poc Sports and Pieps) reported a 24 percent increase in sales to $59.4 million for the third quarter 2014 as it expands into apparel with BD and Poc. Net profit jumped to $20.4 million on the sale of its Gregory brand during the quarter — officials say the company netted $39.5 million off the $84.1 million sale — using some of that money to pay down debt). Looking solely at continuing operations, the net figure came in at a more modest $400,000 loss for the quarter.

As of Sept. 30, 2014, Black Diamond had $42.8 million in cash along with $25.6 million in debt versus $4.5 million in cash and $38 million in debt a year ago.

Looking ahead, officials were upbeat, but acknowledged that winter weather will play the key role for the season. Pre-bookings showed the strongest sales in Black Diamond Gore-Tex and down-filled insulation items, and Poc Sports helmets and goggles are seeing a nice bump from the brand’s prior year Winter Olympic exposure, Metcalf said.

--David Clucas