Insiders hinted to SNEWS® early on the morning of March 2 that a shakeup at Johnson Outdoors' paddlesports division was imminent. Confirmation of that shakeup came one day after a memo was sent to Johnson Outdoors' watercraft reps on March 2, which a number of retailers who'd received the memo began sending to SNEWS on March 3.
In short, the memo confirmed that Mark Leopold, former group vice president of Johnson Outdoors' watercraft division, was out of a job and his position had been merged with that of Kelly Grindle, group vice president of Johnson Outdoors' marine electronics division. Grindle is now vice president of Johnson Outdoors' marine electronics and watercraft businesses. The memo also stated that the watercraft division will not be attending Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in July 2009, making official, it appears, what has been rumored for some time.
A copy of that internal Johnson memo, is below:
Sent: Monday, March 02, 2009
Subject: Important Communication from Johnson Outdoors
SENT ON BEHALF OF SCOTT FORRISTALL:
Dear Sales Reps:
Johnson Outdoors is combining Watercraft and Marine Electronics businesses units at the top. As a result, Kelly Grindle will now be Vice president – Marine Electronics and Watercraft. This decision represents our continued strong commitment to sustained profitable growth of both businesses, and market leadership for our brands.
We are communicating the leadership change to our top 100 customers today. At the time, we will also let them know that rather than attend Outdoor Retailer this year, we will continue to hold our successful regional dealer conferences. We believe these regional conferences are in the best interests of customers, enabling us to focus more on their individual and geographic needs.
Our goal is a seamless transition for our partners and customers. There are no changes in programs, day-to-day operations or reporting relationships for either business. Importantly, Watercraft sales to-date are meeting expectations, which is a credit to your efforts in a very tough economy. Right now, we need everyone to stay focused on executing against plans and beating the competition.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Vice President – Sales
Johnson Outdoors Watercraft
cc: Mark Leopold
Johnson Outdoors' watercraft division includes Old Town, Ocean Kayak, Necky Kayaks, Extrasport, Carlisle and Lendal. The marine division includes Humminbird, Minn Kota and Cannon.
SNEWS® View: The last week or so has been a tough one for Johnson Outdoors' watercraft division, especially in the New England area, but we doubt that had anything to do with this decision. This change is likely just a cost-saving move because by all accounts, and our experience, Leopold performed solidly in his role as head of the paddlesports division since 2001. Grindle, though, has his hands full now, starting with cleaning up the aforementioned New England mess the company created by unloading overstock at Ocean State Job Lot -- click here to read our Feb. 25, 2009, editorial, "SNEWS View: We are in extraordinary times, but beware of decisions for short-term gain."
Word from numerous retailers throughout the New England region is that there is a bit of a retailer uprising as many of them cancel remaining spring preseasons and open orders with the company. The underlying message is, and frankly this goes for any manufacturer finding itself in an overstock position: Think before you dump because the resulting costs of bad PR and retailer ill feelings will most certainly outweigh any short-term revenue gains you might realize.