Finally making official what SNEWSÂ® and much of the industry has known as true for months now, Lowe Alpine Systems announced that the company will shut down its Colorado offices and consolidate brand management, sales and marketing functions with Asolo USA in New Hampshire.
Geoff O'Keefe, Lowe's president, and Gareth Richards, vice president of marketing for Lowe, and the only remaining Boulder, Colo.-based, employees as of this writing, will not be making the move. Their last day as members of the Lowe Alpine team is July 31.
Bruce Franks and the current New Hampshire-based team will assume management of all U.S. operations for Lowe Alpine and begin working with the current sales force on Aug. 1.
"Geoff and his team deserve a lot of credit for working to revitalize and revamp the Lowe Alpine brand image in the U.S.," Franks told us. "But we still have a long way to go before we can be satisfied."
Franks noted that this second consolidation -- the first involved moving customer service, accounting and distribution to New Hampshire in June 2003 -- underscores the Italian parent company's (Asolo Spa) commitment to be fully involved and immersed in all aspects of brand operations.
"The Zanatta's influence will be on product quality, contemporary designs and timely deliveries," Franks said.
Looking back over the last six months, Franks noted that focusing on timely deliveries for retailers are an immediate need.
"It is not an easy thing to turn that around quickly, but we are working hard to ensure all deliveries are shipped completely and when expected," said Franks. "With the consolidation, we can focus on an existing, and really, really good team of folks who are growing very well into the new owner's business model."
Lowe Alpine and Asolo USA will also consolidate their trade show efforts beginning with the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Both brands will exhibit within a newly designed booth.
Beginning Aug. 1, all sales and marketing communications should be directed to the Asolo/Lowe Alpine U.S. headquarters in Lebanon, N.H., at 877-888-8533.
SNEWSÂ® View: Deciding to move the offices to New Hampshire sealed the fate of both Geoff and Gareth as neither had any desire to move out of Colorado. The full consolidation of Lowe Alpine to New Hampshire makes complete sense, despite the loss of two quality leaders. And the consolidation of booths into one large booth also makes sense because now retail buyers can easily coordinate footwear and apparel-buying decisions if desired. Hat's off to Geoff, Gareth and the entire Colorado-based team who worked very diligently against huge challenges to restore faith in a brand that prior U.K. owners nearly managed to kill off. Franks and his team still have some steep stairs to climb ahead of them to be sure. Sales have been declining, deliveries have not been stellar, and while the brand has seen noticeable improvement in apparel design, fit and function over the last three seasons, many retailers tell us they're still looking for something more. Retailers may get that "something more," but not until the fall/winter 2005 line is shown that reflects the full touch of the Italian-based design team. Though Franks had nothing to say regarding replacements when we spoke with him, we would expect that after taking the time to determine what the specific staffing needs are on the management side, he'll begin actively seeking staff to fill specific needs in terms of marketing and sales. As for Geoff and Gareth, it is unlikely either will remain on the unemployed list for long.