Mountainsmith looks poised for strong growth

Mountainsmith has a secret weapon that makes President Greg Thomsen smile -- sourcing connections, factory relationships and international partnerships few others can match. And now, following a moderately bumpy period as the company sorted out staffing directions and other needs, Mountainsmith is poised for great things, Thomsen said he believes.
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Mountainsmith has a secret weapon that makes President Greg Thomsen smile -- sourcing connections, factory relationships and international partnerships few others can match. And now, following a moderately bumpy period as the company sorted out staffing directions and other needs, Mountainsmith is poised for great things, Thomsen said he believes.

SNEWS® recently sat down with Peter Novak, the new vice president of sales for Mountainsmith, and Thomsen, president and CEO of Mountainsmith and a partner in Pacifica LTM, the holding company that owns Mountainsmith.

Novak comes to Mountainsmith with strong credentials, most recently as the national sales and marketing manager for the 5.11 Tactical Series, a company Royal Robbins' CEO and former owner Dan Costa created in 2001 to meet the uniform needs of the police, tactical forces and more. Prior to that, he was the national sales and marketing manager for Royal Robbins Outdoor and Travel Clothing.

Thomsen told us that Novak will be responsible for all Mountainsmith sales in the United States, as well as the company's sales goals for expansion in Europe, Canada, Japan and Asia. The entire sales force, along with customer service, warehousing and shipping will report directly to Novak.

While Novak admitted he faces challenges ahead (including the fact that in Europe, the brand is a complete unknown), he fully believes that Mountainsmith hasn't even come close to realizing its potential.

"Mountainsmith is such a great specialty brand with a very loyal customer base, a great heritage of innovation, quality and service. I'm very excited about the opportunity to work with our team to expand the distribution of Mountainsmith into market areas we are currently very weak in, such as college bookstores, and into regions we are nonexistent in, such as Europe," Novak told us.

That's not to say that the company is suddenly going on a huge expansion kick to boost the bottom line, according to Thomsen.

"We are absolutely going to be keeping the brand of Mountainsmith very pure and focused on the idea we are the leading brand of products for outdoor athletes," said Thomsen. "We are privately owned and have no investment pressure to reach some arbitrary financial goal or annual sales percentage increase."

Overall, Mountainsmith's sales are up around 10 percent for 2003, according to Thomsen. Overall sales for Pacifica LTM, Mountainsmith's parent company, are up 24.6 percent with the private label and OEM part of the company, 105 Meridien, reporting sales up 23 percent.

It is with 105 Meridien that the sourcing connection comes in. Thomsen is combining both ASG and 105 Meridien into the renamed Pacifica DesignWorks, a team focused entirely on what he terms "needs design, sourcing and marketing" of outsourced products.

Quiksilver, Eastpak, JanSport, Lands' End, Orvis, Patagonia and more have all turned to 105 Meridien or ASG over the last decade to assist with design, sourcing and production support. And, while Pacifica DesignWorks will certainly continue to provide a full service to others for outsourcing product development, production and marketing, Thomsen makes no secret of the fact that Mountainsmith reaps the benefits of such a close relationship.

"We are able to develop and leverage comprehensive supplier programs and relationships that help us bring the highest quality products at the lowest possible prices with the highest possible margins (more than a 50 percent margin to retailers) to market, and that is all good for our retailers," Thomsen said.

In addition, because of the amount of production the international factories get from the entire Pacifica LTM company, Mountainsmith now enjoys greater negotiating power and has the added advantage of being able to effectively institute a code of conduct.

"Our code of conduct for all of the Pacifica companies is so strict that if a factory passes our set standards for offering employee working conditions and benefits, you could take any prospective customer there and they'd be impressed at the quality and level of the working conditions," said Thomsen.

Novak and Thomsen also said they expected sales increases to come through Mountainsmith's introduction of two new product lines -- a line of hydration packs complete with reservoirs from TFO, a division of Nalge Nunc International Corp.; and a line of camera bags that the company hopes will rival the designs and success experienced by the venerable Lowe Pro. Both of these lines will be introduced at Winter Market in Salt Lake in 2004.

SNEWS View: We don't normally drink the Kool-aid and then hold our glasses out to ask for another serving without questioning the flavor. But in this case, we have to admit, we're impressed with what we've seen, heard and read so far. Thomsen hasn't dodged our commentary that says he needs someone along side him to direct the brand image through sales and marketing and, by all accounts, he's brought in a solid partner in Novak. Then too there is David Crumrine who heads up the design team. He's been behind the scenes until recently, but everyone will get a chance to see his energy and talent at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer trade show; we think everyone will be duly impressed. We certainly wondered in the past if there would be Mountainsmith life after Mike Valvano and Brian Bennett departed. Frankly, we think Thomsen has made all the right moves so far and that the brand is, indeed, poised for solid growth. That bodes well for specialty retailers seeking a brand that offers good margins and isn't going to be found for sale at "Just Any Retailer For Cheap" down the street.

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