Geoff O'Keeffe, after a brief respite from the world of executive leadership following his December 2006 resignation as the president of Mountainsmith, has a new gig -- president of what is currently termed the Slumberjack division of American Recreation Products (ARP).
O'Keeffe, who has held leadership positions at Adventure 16, Patagonia, Planet Outdoors (remember it? -- another dot-com bust) and Lowe Alpine, joined the American Rec team on April 23. Though he is currently commuting from his Boulder, Colo., home to St. Louis, the accumulation of frequent flyer miles will come to an end by August, O'Keeffe told SNEWS®.
"We are moving the headquarters to Boulder, and expect to complete that move no later than August 1," O'Keeffe told us. "Our strategy overall is to situate all the specialty oriented companies within ARP within a virtual campus. We don't intend to put them physically next to each other but at least in the same local, so we can take advantage of synergies that make sense in a larger shared environment. Once the Slumberjack move is completed, all of the specialty oriented ARP brands -- Kelty, Sierra Designs and Slumberjack -- will be in the Boulder area."
Two employees from the St. Louis-based staff will make the move to join O'Keeffe in the new offices. John Wright, national sales manager, and Rob Hawkins, senior product manager, are Boulder-bound.
"We will recruit into the open positions here in town," O'Keeffe said. "We are working very hard to ensure that the move is completely transparent to both our dealers and their consumers. During the entire process, the great team that already exists in St. Louis will be staying on to ensure customers are taken care of completely. Once the transition is complete and Boulder is running smoothly, the St. Louis team will transition on to other duties."
O'Keeffe will be overseeing a division that includes the Slumberjack brand, as well as the camping gear license for Browning. Though no specifics were offered, SNEWS® has learned that other brands will likely be moved under the Slumberjack umbrella in short order.
Noting that the Slumberjack division already has strong distribution within the hunting and fishing side of the outdoor business, with stores such as Cabela's, Gander, Bass Pro and Sportsman's Warehouse, we asked O'Keeffe where he felt the low hanging fruit lay for Slumberjack.
"With our license business, we have a tremendous upside. We are putting a lot more energy into that license business specifically along the lines of new product development and category extensions. As for the Slumberjack-branded biz, we have significant opportunity among the specialty outdoor trade with existing product line," he said.
SNEWS® View: Great hire for American Rec!!! O'Keeffe has a leadership pedigree as good as they come. And, he joins a pretty powerful ARP brain trust already in place in the Boulder area -- Paul Gagner, president of Sierra Designs, and Kenny Ballard, president of Kelty. O'Keeffe, Gagner and Ballard in the same room discussing overall brand strategies? WOW!
As a bit of insider info, this so-called Slumberjack division is being referred to in-house as the SBW division (Specialty, Backcountry and Wilderness), meaning ARP is very serious about not taking the products downstream. For those who think Slumberjack is a discount or big-box brand, think again. In truth, it is much broader than that and with some very strong existing specialty distribution. O'Keeffe's challenge will be to enhance the specialty distribution and articulate the value proposition of Slumberjack that is inherent in the product line to the specialty trade.