Lowe Alpine quietly closes apparel side of global business

The Lowe Alpine apparel business has become another casualty of global economic unrest as representatives of the company confirmed to SNEWS® that it had closed down the clothing division based in Treviso, Italy, on July 1, 2010. Only SNEWS has the exclusive interview with insight.
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The Lowe Alpine apparel business has become another casualty of global economic unrest as representatives of the company confirmed to SNEWS® that it had closed down the clothing division based in Treviso, Italy, on July 1, 2010.

“We have moved all operations for Lowe Alpine back to the United Kingdom, under the direction of David Udberg,” Luca Zanatta, co-owner and CEO of the parent company Asolo, told SNEWS during an exclusive interview. “Our family and the Asolo company are focusing our resources and our time now on what we know much better…making shoes.”

Of the 12 employees who worked for Lowe Alpine in Treviso, Zanatta told SNEWS the company has already helped each person find new employment.

While the move to relocate the Lowe Alpine headquarters and close down the clothing division points to a certain amount of financial stress in the company, Zanatta pointed out that Lowe Alpine is not currently for sale, despite rumors to the contrary.

“We are doing very well with Lowe Alpine packs, and since our acquisition of the company, the pack side of the business has always been successful and profitable and generates good cash flow for our company,” said Zanatta. “Our business now for Lowe Alpine will be focused on designing, producing and selling packs to the best of our abilities to a global market.”

Bruce Franks, general manager of Asolo USA, told SNEWS that for him, Lowe Alpine’s pack line, showcased at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010, was “the best and most innovative pack line the market has seen in a long time.”

Despite the pack line’s success, Lowe’s apparel side nearly bled the company dry, we were told. When the European markets collapsed 18 months ago, it put the apparel division of Lowe Alpine into complete disarray. Even distributors, which the company counted on to sell its clothing to retailers, were suddenly faced with credit problems themselves.

Like in the U.S., Zanatta told us, European banks changed their portfolio mixes dramatically, and as a result, previously available lines of credit dried up, forcing Asolo, as the parent company, to fund the business -- something it was not prepared to do.

“The Lowe Alpine clothing side of the business was bleeding, and with no way to continue without putting Asolo and our family at great risk, and with no relief apparent from the financial markets, we made the very difficult, but right decision to shut down production of apparel to protect our assets, and to ensure Lowe Alpine could work to right itself,” said Zanatta.

Although Lowe Alpine is not for sale, the Zanatta family is entertaining offers that have come from the United States and Europe to license the brand name. “We are looking at all of our options and want to evaluate very carefully what is best for the brand in the long term,” Zanatta told us.

When we asked if the financial difficulties with Lowe Alpine had an effect on the overall Asolo business, Zanatta allowed that it had certainly affected his family, but that the situation has had no effect on sales of Asolo footwear or the health of the Asolo business.

“In 2009, we had our best year in terms of profitability and sales at Asolo, helped certainly by the fact we own our factories in both Romania and the Ukraine,” said Zanatta. “And for 2010, with our focus now entirely on the company, we expect even better performance.”

--Michael Hodgson

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