Outdoor Did You Hear?...

Vortex expands; Vibram launches national campaign; Columbia outerwear sponsor for King of Mountain; Access Fund says thank you; Sport Chalet opens two more stores; S&P upgrades Kellwood; Connelly joins Zamberlan;
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>> Vortex Backpacks, a Salt Lake City-based backpack manufacturer, has moved into larger warehouse facilities in response to 30 percent growth. Much of the company's growth has come from the hunting and fly-fishing product lines, with a 50-percent preseason increase coming from the William Joseph fly-fishing packs and the Badlands hunting packs. Vortex intends to continue the company expansion by developing packs specifically for snowboarding and snowmobiling in 2003.

>> Vibram's "Get a Grip on Winter" national marketing campaign kicked off this week and will run through the 2002 holiday season. Showcased in 200 selected specialty outdoor stores and advertised nationally, this marks the first time Vibram has combined a retail promotion and national advertising in one marketing campaign. "Get a Grip" combines Vibram sponsorship of the televised Mountaintop Ski and Snowboard Series with an in-store promotion that features gift with purchase DVDs, Vibram sole displays, and educational product materials. Each 90-minute DVD features a range of winter action including backcountry skiing, snowboarding and ice climbing. According to Vibram, the Mountain Top Ski and Snowboard TV Series will generate over 100 million impressions during the holiday season and will air in major markets including New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as resort markets including Aspen, Killington, Tahoe and Vail. United Airlines and US Airways are both airing "Mountaintop" as part of their current in-flight programming. Within each of the 13 programs, Vibram will air its first ever TV commercial. The new 30-second spot emphasizes the Vibram core benefits of grip, traction and durability, ending with a lighthearted twist.

>> Tom Knight has been named the new CEO of the British sports retailing group JJB Sports. He succeeds Duncan Sharpe who was found dead of a suspected suicide by hanging in October. Knight joined JJB Sports quite recently coming from the Blacks Leisure Group plc, where he had a long career and held several positions, in the end serving as managing director of its sports and fashion division.

>> Columbia Sportswear Co. will be the official outerwear supplier of the Jeep King of the Mountain Tour for the seventh time, one of the most recognized ski and snowboard series in the United States. The tour began in Mammoth Mountain, Calif., in late November and ends with the professional's world championships in Aspen, Colo., in February. All races are broadcast live on CBS. Columbia will provide Titanium outerwear and Convert performance board apparel to all employees, volunteers and VIPs involved with the event. Check out www.columbia.com; www.jeepskiing.com/jkom/ .

>> The Access Fund has asked SNEWS to help thank all who helped make the third annual Adopt-a-Crag Day a tremendous success. Adopt-a-Crag Day is the Access Fund's signature event, a national commitment by the climbing community to natural resource stewardship and volunteerism. This year, the Access Fund supported 86 Adopt-a-Crag Day events in 34 states, and one event in British Columbia. Climbers gathered at their favorite crags and boulders for trail construction, litter clean-ups and visual impact mitigation. Adopt-a-Crag Day would not be possible without the generous support of its sponsors. Title Sponsor Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), Presenting Sponsor W.L. Gore, and Supporting Sponsor Clif Bar provided key financial backing, which allowed the Access Fund to provide each Adopt-a-Crag Day event with volunteer incentives, snacks and clean-up materials. As the most wide-ranging volunteer initiative by the climbing community, Adopt-a-Crag Day is a prime venue for climbers to build relationships with landowners, land managers and local businesses. For more info, click on www.accessfund.org.

>> Sport Chalet (NASDAQ: SPCH) just celebrated the opening of a 40,500-sqaure-foot store in Las Vegas, Nev., and a 46,000-square-foot store in Riverside, Calif. The Nevada location is the company's second store in the state and highlights an outdoor pool intended for use in scuba instruction. The Riverside store is the company's second location in Riverside County and the company's 26th store in Southern Calif.

>> Standard & Poor's Rating Services has affirmed a BBB-corporate credit rating for Kellwood Co. (NYSE: KWD), the parent company of American Recreation Products, which owns the brands Sierra Designs, Kelty, Slumberjack, TREKK, Wenzel, Ridgeway, Everst Elite, Gronhaus, and Travasak. At the same time, Standard & Poor's removed the ratings from CreditWatch, where the company was placed on Sept. 30, 2002. The outlook is negative. Total debt outstanding was about $321 million as of July 31, 2002. Standard & Poor's expects that, despite a challenging operating environment, Kellwood will be able to generate stable financial results in the near term. Despite lower sales volume, Kellwood is likely to maintain its margins and financial measures because of better inventory control and an improved cost structure. In addition, the company continues to generate significant free cash flow, which has been applied to debt reduction. Since January 2001, Kellwood has reduced debt by over $200 million. For more, go to www.standardandpoors.com

>> John Connelly, who most recently held down the job of general manager of the Vasque brand until restructuring moves last year, has joined Italian footwear company Zamberlan. Zamberlan has been selling into the U.S. market only through REI and has enjoyed sufficient success there to cause the company to seek expansion. Connelly will be setting up a distribution center and managing the company's U.S. sales and marketing activities with an eye on providing fulfillment to the U.S. market for fall 2003. According to Connelly, "We are targeting the top outdoor specialty dealers and will focus on backpacking, trekking, light hiking and multi-sport with competitive pricing and excellent margins." Connelly can be reached by email at john_zamberlanusa@msn.com. SNEWS View: We wish John well. Though we wonder if there is room at retail for yet another footwear brand focusing on, well, the same things every other brand out there is focusing on. Time will tell.

>> EORA (Eastern Outdoor Reps Association) has added another member to its staff, Stacey Gellert. She is relocating to Asheville, N.C., from California where she worked for Media Ventures Entertainment Corp., a company that produced film scores for companies such as DreamWorks.

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