The Kneissl & Friends board has announced that it is restructuring its business, which includes the suspension of all operations in the United States, including the shutting down of KDR Inc. on Sept. 30. KDR distributed Deeluxe and Kneissl brand product to the winter sports market.
Raichle dealers had already lost their distributor earlier this month when the contract Life-Link had with Kneissl expired and was not renewed.
The Kneissl board attributed its flight from North America to an adverse economic climate, retailers in financial difficulty or going bankrupt, unsettled weather, and the concentration of business here through buying groups and mass merchants. The Kneissl board has indicated it will focus all its efforts on its European business.
In a prepared statement, KDR CEO Scott Mellin stated, "The closure of KDR is the result of several factors including low liquidity from a high level of defaulted dealer payments, lack of broad dealer support and the inability of KDR to secure appropriate financing. KDR will not deliver any preseason retailer orders and all stock on hand will be liquidated."
Tim Kelly, the product manager for Dynafit and Life-Link, and until a few weeks ago for Raichle, told SNEWS® that he just found out last week which gave him only three weeks until Summer Market to change his focus and notify dealers.
"It's disappointing to us for sure. Raichle had huge potential. It fell off the map over the last 10 years, and we were very psyched to bring the brand back," Kelly said. "We poured a lot of advertising and effort into the brand and had a very strong rep force too. We were poised to make it happen, but.…"
SNEWS® made several attempts to contact Kneissl in Europe but emails were not answered.
SNEWS® View: If truth be known, Raichle is not really "abandoning" the North American market. REI still has two special make-up boots with Raichle that probably account for 27,000 pairs sold each year. MEC also does business with Raichle. In fact, our sources and estimates by experts indicate that REI and MEC probably account for nearly half of Raichle's worldwide sales, which last year were pegged at around 140,000 pairs. Certainly not turning many heads with those kind of numbers, but at least they're respectable -- barely. As for winter sports, it's been a monumental slide for Kneissl. Focusing on the North American market alone, we dug up numbers from 1989 when Kneissl/Raichle sold 220,000 pair of ski boots. Compare that with barely 1,000 pairs sold for the 2002 season and a mere $500,000 in ski sales for the same year and, if those numbers are even close to correct, one begins to understand why Kneissl is jumping ship. What is sad and upsetting about the way Kneissl is handling all of this is that it isn't talking to its distributors or, even more disturbing, to their retailers. It would be nice for dealers to know what to tell their customers -- you know, the few who have remained loyal to the brand and deserve better than they're getting right now? If Kneissl has any dreams of coming back to this market, the company needs to clean up its mess -- and quickly. Of course, with Raichle out, that opens the door to another company that has been standing on the North American threshold and peering in -- Meindl. We'll keep you posted, but we suspect you'll be hearing from that company soon.