Kulczycki's back-to-basics campaign shows results for Filson retailers

Since assuming the helm as CEO of Filson six month ago, Bill Kulczycki's role has been one of championing a return to basics – the basics of communication. "We are looking at 2007 as a year to reinforce internal operations so we can poise the company for growth," Kulczycki told SNEWS® in a recent interview.
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Since assuming the helm as CEO of Filson six month ago (click here to read our story), Bill Kulczycki's role has been one of championing a return to basics – the basics of communication.

"We are looking at 2007 as a year to reinforce internal operations so we can poise the company for growth," Kulczycki told SNEWS® in a recent interview.

Earlier this year, Lee Smith joined Filson as its sales manager, coming over from a recent stint in merchandising for Lands End.

"Lee's main focus currently is to increase the support for reps as well as dealer communication, and he's working on setting up a dealer promotional program we will be rolling out in fall 2007," said Kulczycki. That program, we were told, will include a combination of in-store dealer support materials combined with ad support.

Mike Burns, former president of Backwoods, also joined the team recently as director of operations, and will be pulling together a product development team, combined with his latest hire of a product manager, to synch up development with production all with an eye toward improving deliveries.

While Kulczycki admits that delivery improvement is not something the company has realized yet, the company is poised for dramatic improvement from last year's 15 percent off number as the 3rd and 4th quarters of this year approach.

"Many of the changes we've put into place will see results in the fall of this year," Kulczycki told us. "We're still primarily a 3rd and 4th quarter business, which is where most of our issue was last year, especially over the confusion with the Lodge line."

With Lodge, Kulczycki's team has terminated the brand, and integrated select styles into what is now known as the Filson sportswear line. Word on the street is that the changes have, thus far, been received well by the rank-and-file Filson dealers.

In addition, Kulczycki told us his team has taken great pains to be very deliberate and forthright in explaining in the most recent company catalog why sourcing is being expanded overseas.

"By not communicating effectively in the past with our Filson consumers and dealers, we were, in effect, allowing them to define what the brand was, and in many cases, was not," said Kulczycki. "Communicating … it's really a very basic concept when it comes to effective business."

Naturally, it is not all about simply trimming the sails. Kulczycki and team are launching, at the behest of retail direct consumers and the company's retailers, a targeted line of women's products with 30 styles for fall 2008.

"The line will be very Filson in its authentic heritage with waxed cottons, some wool, and a tight mix of cotton fabric shorts, pants and shirts," said Kulczycki.

Filson is also expanding its presence in the fly fishing world, a natural expansion for a company with such a strong hunting heritage we were told, and certainly a strategic move for a company seeking to expand its seasonal business model.

"We have a strong fall and winter offering but don't really have an anchor for the spring," said Kulczycki. "Fly fishing is a market we want to go after. We realize it is crowded but think we can have a unique place in the market given our heritage."

Filson has been making canvas fly fishing vests and doing fairly well with them, SNEWS® was told, but Kulczycki feels there is room to incorporate what he terms Filson aesthetics into a line of waders, which will be the company's first foray into three- and five-layer fabrics.

SNEWS® View: Though six months is still too short a time to judge long-term and effective change, it does appear to us that under BK's watch, Filson is back on the track of being Filson. Amazing what a little TLC for a brand combined with a mountain of internal operation tightening and dramatically improved communication can do to restore dealer confidence AND company morale. It's also really nice to see Mike Burns resurface in a role he is eminently well-suited for…managing operations and people.

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