Barely a month has passed since we reported that Watershed USA and Nikwax had parted ways, But in that time, Watershed has established a wholly-owned subsidiary, Axis Outdoor, and locked down North American distribution rights to Granger's -- yet another U.K.-based waterproof products company.
Axis Outdoor will be responsible for the distribution, marketing and brand management of the product side of Watershed's business. Watershed USA will continue to specialize in fulfillment, back-office and supply chain support.
The connection to Watershed began when Granger's turned to Allen Slade -- formerly with Patagonia Canada -- last year to research the North American market and explore distribution options for the company.
Little surprise then that Slade subsequently turned to a friend, Morrie Trautman, president of Watershed USA, and that the conversations morphed into a business relationship.
Trautman told SNEWSÂ® that, coincidentally, Slade was researching the market for Granger's, while Chris Mork, who manages the customer service and product research teams at Watershed, was leading an 18-month project to test nearly every after-market waterproofing product available on the market today, and some that were still in development.
"Our intention early on was to develop ideas that we might be able to bring to market with Nikwax, but that never materialized," Trautman told SNEWSÂ®.
"When the Granger's opportunity presented itself, it became very evident that with them we would have a partner that would allow us to market products that we only dreamed of in the past," added Trautman. "We believe we can breathe some new life into a category that's been stagnant in terms of offering new innovation for some time now."
According to Mike Curtis, general manager for Watershed USA, the responsiveness to input has been immediately evident.
"We just came back from England, and when we went over there, we fully expected to finalize a product line to offer at Summer Market that included aerosols," Curtis said. "When we arrived, we found Granger's had already sourced container packaging that is a non-propellant yet still gives the look, feel, ease-of-use and simplicity that an aerosol provides."
In effect, Granger's had just negated the one major knock on the company that Watershed knew could pose a problem -- that the company used aerosols which were not as environmentally friendly as products offered by the competition.
SNEWSÂ® View: The competition in the market just heated up, big time. This can only be good for retailers as we suspect Nick Brown, owner of Nikwax, will see this as an affront and challenge to his current position as market leader. Nikwax has been resting on its laurels for too long now, so it will be interesting to watch what Brown begins cooking up in the magic cauldron in an attempt to hold onto the innovative edge. As for Watershed and Axis Outdoor now distributing Granger's, we say simply, wow! We've heard from a number of key rep agencies already, indicating that the Watershed rep force of "A-level" agencies will remain intact, and that is only good for Granger's. In addition, it is clear that Granger's is already listening to and responding to input from its American partner, and that can only be good for both Granger's and the North American consumer. If we were the betting sort -- and we do like to put our view out there on the speculation roulette wheel -- Axis Outdoor will soon be offering supplies that recondition siliconized fabrics, seal seams, recoat tent fabrics, and more. In fact, we'll really go out on a limb here and speculate that Axis will likely make a play to become a one-stop-shop for all things fabric, footwear and repair.