On Friday, Lowe Alpine and W.L. Gore announced that the two companies have agreed to a strategic alliance and license agreement, which will feature Gore-Tex and Windstopper fabrics into Lowe's fall 2004 apparel collection.
The announcement effectively brings to an end Lowe Alpine's much ballyhooed partnership with eVENT, though Lowe is still going ahead with the company's product launch of eVENT product for fall 2003. It will be a short-lived run, though, as eVENT will disappear from the product line the following year.
"When the ownership change happened with Asolo, we thought this decision might come down the road, and it has," Rob Hendon, marketing manager for eVENT (a BHA company), told SNEWS. "Lowe is an important partner for us, so yes, the decision is a disappointment, but our business continues to grow and we have lots of other great customers coming online."
SNEWS asked Hendon to elaborate on the new customers, but he declined stating that until contracts are final, he could not offer specific details. Currently, eVENT's website -- www.eventfabrics.com -- lists Lowe Alpine, Pearl Izumi, Etonic, Salomon, Bonfire, Nordica, Klattermusen, Scott, Oakley, SOS, Wild Things and Colmar as customers.
Steve Shuster, business leader for W.L. Gore, told SNEWS that Gore has had ongoing discussions with Lowe for years, and that with the new management at Lowe (Asolo, a good customer of Gore), the discussion became more serious and the opportunity to establish a long-term relationship arose.
We asked Geoff O'Keeffe why Lowe apparently changed direction so suddenly.
"Being an international brand, we decided that we needed to align ourselves with the best possible partner in all respects, those being product development, market position and the ability to market the brand," O'Keeffe told us.
"eVENT fabrication is a tremendous product, but long-term success and positioning needs rest solidly on all aspects of a product line, and we felt that Gore better exemplified those attributes," added O'Keeffe.
SNEWS asked a number of retailers what they thought about bringing eVENT in now that Lowe is clearly abandoning the line. Several retailers who are strong Lowe Alpine customers told us they will still bring the eVENT product they ordered in, but if it doesn't sell, they'll expect Lowe to work with them to either take the product back or discount it so that it does move.
O'Keeffe told us that every Lowe retailer will be supported fully as the company has promised and will normally do. He also pointed out that the overwhelming volume of business in units is weighted toward Triplepoint still, with over 90 percent of the fall bookings leaning that way and less than 10 percent weighted to eVENT.
Currently, Lowe Alpine management is working to replace eVENT product with Gore-branded product for the fall 2004 line, which is already well into the development process. O'Keeffe reminded us that no one in the industry will see the full execution of the Gore program in the Lowe line until 2005.
SNEWS View: Though eVENT is going to put on the best face the company can, losing Lowe has to hurt. You only had to attend the press conference in August 2002 at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market to see just how seriously eVENT felt about the strength and potential of the Lowe partnership. It's too bad too, because eVENT is a great product from all we can tell. SNEWS editors have worn the latest Lowe Alpine jacket with eVENT and like it as much if not better than many other top high-end waterproof/breathable storm shells we've worn recently. Waterproof, breathes very, very well, doesn't ever feel clammy, and it's durable. So if eVENT's so good, why did Lowe jump ship? For Lowe Alpine to continue to grow and battle its way forward in a competitive worldwide marketplace, the company needed more global horsepower, and it gets it with the Gore machine. Gore offers much more sophisticated and deeper marketing pockets and a more complete offering of products than BHA/eVENT currently, and with Gore, Lowe can in turn offer a wider variety of products across the waterproof/windproof, water-resistant/windproof and soft shell spectrum to its customers. As for Lowe's Official eVENT Tester program, it is still very much going ahead, and in fact consumers are receiving their test garments now. Despite that continued show of faith to the original program, eVENT has become a non-event at Lowe faster than snow melts on hot asphalt, proving yet again that Gore's competitive sword remains as sharp as ever and it's just as tough now as it was years ago to duck its cutting edge.