Confluence Watersports Company has laid off 48 employees in its North Carolina facility and 7 employees in Vermont, Andy Zimmerman, CEO of the Trinity, North Carolina-based company, confirmed with SNEWS on March 29. That leaves 250 employees.
Zimmerman insists that despite rumors to the contrary, Confluence is healthier than ever, and he told SNEWS that the layoffs were simply the result of necessary downsizing in the face of a primarily weather-related overstock of boats.
"We experienced our best pre-season in history," said Zimmerman. " Preseason orders were up over 50 percent, and our business to date is up 100 percent. I hear rumors that our competition only increased their business by 10 percent in the same time frame.
"Because of the mergers and acquisitions, we gained efficiencies far beyond what we thought might be possible and, as a result, our new product introductions were ready for shipment far sooner than any prior year," Zimmerman said.
"We started shipping preseason orders in September and continued on a fast pace through December," he said.
However, according to Zimmerman, poor weather in normally strong states such as Florida (Confluence's biggest state for sales volume) as well as in other North American regions left retailers sitting on stock and not moving boats the way Confluence had anticipated or even hoped.
"Rather than fill up our warehouses to the ceiling like I have heard the competition is doing, we decided to take the hard step and be proactive by trimming production to meet demand," said Zimmerman. "The entire industry has caught up with demand for the first time in history â€“ something we could never have dreamed of doing in the past. I just hope that our fellow competitors trim their production as well so that our industry does not end up with such an overstock of inventory that we end up with dumping and the resulting negative impact on prices and profitability."
When pressed about the health of Confluence, Zimmerman asserted that the company was extremely profitable last year, that its overall business grew by 30 percent, and that its R&D cycle is so far ahead that it will be able to deliver new boats to retailers within six months of prototypes being shown to them.
Added Zimmerman, "I cannot be so cocky as to assume that the economy is not having an impact on us or the industry either and why I am mentioning this is that we need as an industry to get together and promote paddlesports more. It has happened naturally in past years and we have been lucky and blessed. TAPS is a floundering organization and we are not pushing paddlesports like we need to.
"The industry needs new blood and forward-thinking. We have some stiff competition for everyone's attention, and we need to find ways to ensure we are on the minds of more and more folks, or we are all going to be in very serious trouble in the years ahead."
Zimmerman told SNEWS he would prefer to see the paddlesports industry organize as a sub group of ORCA, much like the Climbing Gym Association did. "ORCA is phenomenal for organizing industry and galvanizing attention â€“ the climbing gym association has prospered as part of ORCA, and paddlesports can and should do the same."