Lowe Alpine Systems has announced that the company will reorganize its American operations and relocate customer service, accounting and distribution functions to New Hampshire, effective June 1, 2003. Lowe's company operations will be combined with those of Asolo USA to achieve efficiencies that can be realized following Asolo's acquisition of Lowe late last year.
Geoff O'Keeffe, president of Lowe Alpine U.S., told SNEWS, "The decision is obvious given that the ownership of Lowe Alpine has two owned subsidiaries in the U.S. It makes absolute sense to find efficiencies while at the same time maintaining the direction, leadership, and strategy our company has worked toward and achieved in the last year.
"The excellent relationships between the Asolo and Lowe Alpine teams promise to make both brands more competitive in the future," added O'Keeffe.
Sandy Sincek, Gareth Richards, Ashley Devery and Kent McClannan, who together handle the company's U.S. sales, marketing and product development efforts, will remain in Boulder, Colo., along with O'Keeffe and continue with the reorganization of the Lowe Alpine brand internationally alongside their European counterparts.
As with any move, there is a human cost. Other than the management team that will be remaining in Colorado, the rest of the staff have been given three and half months notice. O'Keeffe told us that they were all handling the news extremely professionally, as hard as this news is.
SNEWS contacted Bruce Franks, Asolo's general manager, and the one who will be overseeing all backroom operations for both Asolo and Lowe Alpine, including book keeping, inventory management, customer service, customer care, shipping and receiving, etc. He told us that the company's New Hampshire offices will need to hire additional staff by June to handle the added responsibilities. Franks indicated that he would not be opposed to hearing from current Lowe Alpine staff should any express a desire to move.
O'Keeffe stressed to SNEWS that the sales rep force remains solid and unchanged by any of this.
"The existing Lowe Alpine sales force has been an essential link between the company and its growing dealer base as the brand has repositioned itself over the past year," O'Keeffe told us. "All of our reps will continue in that capacity, and will be instrumental in assuring a seamless communication link with all of our dealers during the transition period."
SNEWS View: Though the human cost of such a move is never pleasant, the shift of operations to the East is a logical move that will improve efficiencies for Asolo/Lowe Alpine in the short and long term, but more importantly, improve customer service and order-tracking efficiency for Lowe Alpine and the company's customers too. Asolo's order tracking system is well-oiled and connected logically to the Italian operations. Need to know where a boot is at any given time? The Italian rail system could learn a thing or two from Asolo. Need to know where a Lowe Alpine jacket is right now? Though there have been dramatic improvements in the last year, for whatever reason, tracking a product at any point in the production chain is still not quite as easy as it could be. The interface with the United States and Great Britain under Lowe's present ancient inventory management system somewhat resembles a cluttered closet say insiders and customers who've had to deal with it. Not that you can't find things in a cluttered closet mind you -- it just takes longer is all. Of course, none of these improvements will happen overnight as working with many more SKUs in multiple colors and styles as well as differing product categories in multiple seasons made in multiples of factories isn't quite as easy as managing boots, boots and only boots made essentially in only one factory.