Bye bye Dana Design, hello expanded Marmot line

Dana Design, as a brand name, is going to be placed in mothballs beginning with the spring 2006 season, Marmot representatives told SNEWS® during the ROI buying show in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 10.

Dana Design, as a brand name, is going to be placed in mothballs beginning with the spring 2006 season, Marmot representatives told SNEWS® during the ROI buying show in Salt Lake City, Utah, on June 10.

"We came to the conclusion on June 2, after a lot of wrestling and soul-searching, that it was not going to be an equitable thing to continue to run two pack brands," said Alex Kutches, national sales manager for Marmot.

Kutches told us that after an extensive look at the costs of running two booths for two brands at the trade shows, Dana Design sales numbers, distributor issues overseas where one distributor handled Marmot and another handled Dana Design in the same country, and the associated costs of supporting both brands with advertising and promotions, it became painfully clear that the company needed to focus on one brand, and one brand only -- Marmot.

"We may still see some blending of branding, such as including the 'Leaping Fool' image on trim here and there, but it will be subtle," added Kutches. "Beginning with the spring '06 line, all Dana Design packs will become part of the Marmot line, so retailers will see the Marmot Terraplane, the Marmot Bridger …"

Beginning in spring '06, the Marmot/Dana Design line also will be trimmed in SKUs, with the company eliminating all packs under the street and access categories, and all products, other than duffels, under the adventure category. Dana Design tents too are disappearing from the line.

SNEWS® reached Dana Gleason, creator of the pack line that bares his name, and owner of Mystery Ranch, the pack line he launched after selling his company to K2, and he told us that the Dana pack name meant little to him anymore.

"I am awfully proud of having created Dana Design, but as to what it has become and been for the last five years, I left for a reason," Gleason told us. "I left when the name was no longer part of my personal identity."

SNEWS® View: On the emotional side, it hurts to see a brand with as much history in this industry as Dana Design had, simply fade from view. On the practical side though, the decision makes complete sense. It would appear from sales that brand loyalty for Dana Design is a far cry from what it used to be and except for a few loyal diehards, the brand name carries little equity anymore -- K2 saw to that shortly after acquiring the company in 1996.

When K2 purchased Dana Design from Dana Gleason it was around an $8 million company enjoying annual 40 percent growth. The brand name was legendary, with retailers telling us that customers would wait for months for a Dana Design pack, just to get it in the color they wanted. Things looked rosy indeed, but it didn't take long for K2's executive team under former K2 CEO Rich Rodstein to kill the golden goose. Making a huge brand mistake that K2 would likely not make today, Rodstein oversaw Dana Design's move from Bozeman, Mont., to Vashon Island in Washington, leaving its employees, soul and culture behind. In Vashon, K2 was never able to integrate Dana Design into a corporate culture that was all about snowsports, complete with a different sales cycle. Sales quickly plummeted, dipping below $3 million in early 2000, and they've never recovered. Moving the Dana Design brand under the Marmot umbrella of management was the correct move, but when it was made in October 2004, it was too little, too late.

Marmot pack sales have been decent, though nothing to hang your hat on with pride. Now, Marmot can effectively claim a technology story that can be incorporated throughout the line -- Arc Flex and Arc Energy. We would expect that traditional Dana Design pack designs, streamlined and tweaked to refresh them, will sell much better with a Marmot label now, and Marmot packs incorporating Dana Design pack technology will also reap increased sales rewards.

The bottom line here is, Marmot finally has a pack line it can be proud of and build on, and Dana Design retailers really have nothing to miss -- other than a bit of nostalgia.

As for international distribution changes, the company tells us it is still working through those. We would expect that in Japan, Italy, Spain and Norway, where Dana Design is currently distributed, consolidation will occur with preference being given to current Marmot distribution.

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