Outdoor: Did you hear?...

Gert 'Ma' Boyle receives ispo Lifetime Achievement Award, Blue Ridge Mountain Sports honors Bill Chandler, Elite Sport sold to Swix Sports, REI names Prana Vendor Partner of the Year, plus much more...
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>> GERMANY -- Gert "Ma" Boyle, chairwoman and advertising icon of Columbia Sportswear, was awarded the first ispo Lifetime Achievement Award on Feb. 2. Boyle and her son and company president Tim Boyle flew directly from Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to the Munich-based ispo show to receive the award, presented at the booth amidst an American breakfast spread of pancakes, made-to-order scrambled eggs, muffins and juice. Ma Boyle, actually born in Augsburg, Germany, but who came to the United States at 13 when her family immigrated, even spoke a few halting words in German as she accepted her award: "Danke Schoen fuer die grosse Ehre," she told the SRO crowd of show dignitaries, press, company employees and others ("Many thanks for the huge honor"). "I feel very privileged to accept this Lifetime Achievement Award from my honored colleagues and friends. I feel my success in life is built from hard work, and the hard work of the people who work with me. Now I stand before you (and say) that leading an international company as a mother and grandmother is not a job for a timid person." Boyle, who has led the company for just over 30 years, will turn 80 in March and added, "I fully intend to test not only my product but also my son's patience for the next 30 years too."

>> Blue Ridge Mountain Sports recently honored veteran rep Bill Chandler as the retail store's Rep of the Year for 2003. Chandler was selected for his exemplary service to Blue Ridge. In honoring Chandler, Blue Ridge noted that he conducted more clinics in Blue Ridge stores than any other rep and that he "conducts his clinics with integrity, choosing not to belittle other vendors' products and never pretending to know what he does not know. He is very helpful with the special needs of individual stores and buyers and is proactive and creative in developing incentive programs for encouraging sales. He has a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, optimism and energy which he conveys in his store visits as well as in appointments with buyers." Perhaps just as important, we were told that Chandler "faithfully represents Blue Ridge interests with vendors while well and faithfully representing vendor interests with Blue Ridge."

>> NORWAY -- Vegard Ulvang, a former cross-country skiing champion and legend in Norway, has sold his company, Elite Sport, which manufactures wool socks, long underwear and performance apparel, to Swix Sports. Though terms of the deal were not announced, analysts thought the sale price was likely between $7 million and $10 million. Elite is expected to gross $50 million in sales in 2004. Ulvang was a 50 percent owner of the company. With the acquisition, Swix becomes less dependent on snow and can now offer a more balanced, year-round product mix.

>> Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) named Prana as the Vendor Partner of the Year during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market presentation of the retailer's 2003 Vendor Partnership Awards. The annual awards program recognizes three key vendors and one overall Vendor Partner of the Year for efforts that have built a strategic and successful relationship with REI. REI's three merchandising divisions -- Camping/Travel, Action Sports and Outdoorwear -- nominate companies based on several measures, including financial performance, community and industry involvement, product quality, among others. The nominees are reviewed by REI's retail stores, and the stores then determine the final award recipients. The other 2003 REI Vendor Partnership Award winners were:
Camping/Travel Division -- National Geographic Maps
Action Sports Division -- Rossignol
Outdoorwear Division -- Marmot
Other nominees included Black Diamond, GSI, Merrell, Nalge Nunc, The North Face, Red Wing (Vasque), Royal Robbins, Thule and Victorinox Luggage by TRG.

>> SnowSports Industries America (SIA) has sold Customers First to the Leisure Trends Group (LTG) based in Boulder, Colo. A for-profit entity and division of SIA, Customers First is a technology-based customer relationship marketing company that specializes in database management, direct marketing, e-mail marketing and data capture services. Currently operating out of Bethel, Maine, and Rutland, Vt., Customers First will maintain business operations there. Bruce McCloy will continue as president of the company.

>> Mountain Safety Research (MSR) is repackaging SweetWater filters and Packtowl camping towels under the MSR brand name. The company made this decision to consolidate brands in order to better focus resources on building the MSR brand, leverage MSR brand-awareness to bring greater attention to SweetWater and Packtowl products, and simplify the purchase decision for consumers. Current SweetWater filters that will become MSR filters include the SweetWater Purifier (formerly SweetWater Guardian Purifier) and SweetWater Microfilter (formerly SweetWater Guardian). The SweetWater Walkabout will be dropped from the line.

>> Dickie Hall has been named the 2004 recipient of the annual Dagfinn Award. The award honors Dagfinn Ragg, the late Rottefella international sales manager noted equally for his passion for the cross-country ski sports, having fun and using some of the most colorful language ever heard on this planet. Hall started his career in skiing at The North American Nordic Center in Killington, Vt., in the early 1970s. He went on to work at several other cross-country ski centers before opening the first telemark-specific ski school in the United States at Mad River Glen, Vt., in the late '70s. He went on to found the North American Telemark Organization (NATO) conducting clinics across the United States attended over the years by 30,000 skiers and 1,000 ski instructors. He also produced the first series of instructional videos on telemark skiing including "The Telemark Movie" and "Revenge of the Telemarkers." Hall, 53, and his wife Deb have been married for 23 years and have three grown children and two grandchildren. Previous winners of the Dagfinn Award include Paul Parker, John Schweizer, Chip Chase, Steve Barnett, Steve Hardesty, Clair Yost and David Chantler.

>> Thule Inc. and Yakima Products Inc. have agreed to settle their pending patent law suits on confidential terms. Now the two can get back to making sport racks, boxes and accessories instead of paying lawyers.

>> Black Diamond Equipment has launched a new energy initiative with Utah Clean Energy Alliance making Black Diamond one of the first major manufacturers in Utah to be powered by wind. According to the company, Black Diamond's initial commitment to wind power will double every year for the next three years and in one year alone will reduce by over 111 tons the amount of CO2 emissions released. Black Diamond instituted the program at the end of January at a cost that will increase into five figures over the next three years.

>> Adding to its well-established licensing relationships in North America and Asia, Wilmington, Del.-based, Optimer Performance Fibers has announced a new agreement with Istanbul yarn maker, Topkapi Iplik, AS, for the manufacture of its patented dri-release moisture-transport technology. The announcement comes on the heels of a recent agreement made separately with Portuguese yarn spinner, Tearfil, S.A. Together, Tearfil and Topkapi will make dri-release with FreshGuard odor neutralizer more readily available to European markets.

>> GERMANY -- Winners of the annual ispo sporting goods show's Outdoor Awards for the Winter 2004 show, announced at the show this week in Munich, Germany, are Lowe Alpine, Cascade Design's MSR, Kayland and Fritschi. Lowe Alpine won top honors in the textile category for its Warm Zone Ninja Hoody that applies both the company's Dry Zone Base Layer and Warm Zone Isolation technologies. In the Hardware category, MSR won for its snowshoe Lightening Ascent, called the lightest of its class at 1.37 grams per pair. Kayland, the sport shoe line of the Italian company Bittane, won in footwear for its Ice Everest product, designed for different terrain in mountaineering and equipped with Camp crampons. In a category called Specials, Fritschi won for its special crampons ("harscheisen") called Diamir Axion that are mounted on touring ski bindings at the beginning of a tour and can be employed when needed with a flick of a switch and deployed the same way.

>> Royal Robbins is launching the company's first national branding campaign starting this February. The effort, which supports the introduction of the spring 2004 line, will cost nearly a half million dollars and will include print advertising, special events and an online campaign. The initiative will underscore Royal Robbins' brand position as apparel for the outdoor enthusiast who enjoys taking the road less traveled. In total, there will be three print ads in the campaign. One of the ads will focus on adventure and highlight the Backcountry short; the other two ads will emphasize the lifestyle appeal of the brand and will include the new SPF Sun Tracker shirts for men and women as well as the Paisley Strappy Tank for women. The ads will appear in consumer publications including Backpacker, Dandelion, National Geographic Adventure, Outside, Outside Traveler and Shape. Online ads will appear on Backpacker.com, and Outside.com. To support the print ads, Royal Robbins will participate in several grassroots marketing events including: the Backpacker Get Out More Tour which begins this April, visits 50 cities and celebrates all things outdoors; the National Geographic Adventure Muddy Buddy Series of biking and running races which takes place this summer; the Outside World Expo in February; and the Shape Escape in March, which hosts ski and snowboard clinics, and fitness, health, fashion and beauty seminars.

>> GERMANY -- Note that on the second day (Feb. 2) of the ispo show in Germany, a workman was busily tacking up Asolo company signs at the Lowe Alpine booth just below the Lowe Alpine signs on all sides. Of course the booth also housed the Asolo company and product. Oops, guess somebody forgot that both companies needed identification as being at the booth. Better late than never.

>> JiBS footwear has been purchased by the sporting goods and footwear holding company, Pretty Good Management (PGM), based in Portsmouth, N.H. Andy Simonds, managing director, told SNEWS that he sees opportunity in the underperforming brand and, with PGM members, plans to offer a core line for fall 2004 and renovate and update the line in 2005. The JiBS fall collection can be viewed at www.JiBS.com.

>> GERMANY -- Also announced at the ispo sporting goods show in Munich, Germany, were winners of the European Ski Awards. They included Tecnica's Diablo Magnesium Hot Form in the footwear category, the Metron B5 by Atomic in the Hardware category, Nike ACG's Comm Jacket in Apparel, and the Biomex helmet from Scott Sport in Specials. The Fritschi Diamir Axion binding also won in the category for bindings, as it did in the Specials category for the Outdoor Awards.

>> Galyan's (Nasdaq: GLYN) continues to stumble and trip over itself with an update to the company's previously issued comparable same store sales guidance from November 2003. Now, the company says, instead of being flat, Galyan's expects 4Q sales for 2003 to be down by 4.7 percent. The company will report full fiscal fourth quarter results on March 18 and currently expects to report fourth quarter net sales of approximately $249 million. As a result, the company anticipates reporting full year net sales of approximately $690 million, a comparable store sales decrease of approximately 5.9 percent. The company states that its announced expectations for fiscal 2003 results are based on less than expected sales and continued markdowns in a highly promotional retail environment. Comparable store sales decreased from expectations primarily due to softness in the outdoor apparel and equipment categories. SNEWS View: Ouch! From what we hear from vendors that do business with Galyan's, things are going to get much worse before they start to get better. Galyan's is a company searching for a retail identity it can call its own, and has been for the last year. We'd suggest they look in a mirror and stop pointing outwardly to determine what is wrong.

>> Michael Glavin has been named vice president of marketing for Mountainsmith. In his new position, Glavin will be responsible for development and implementation of the company's product lines, for new business growth, and for management of the Mountainsmith brand. He will also be an integral part of the company's management team for all other areas of Mountainsmith business. Glavin comes to Mountainsmith from Cascade Designs where he was most recently director of marketing after holding the position as director of sales and marketing for MSR.

>> True North Brand Group is now the PR company for both Kombi and Gordini gloves as well as SportLegs sports performance supplements. In addition, Sheri Metras has been hired as True North's newest account executive. Metras, an LPGA teaching professional, has worked on and off with True North for the past year as an account administrator before joining full time.

>> Columbia Sportswear (Nasdaq:COLM) posted fourth-quarter income of $32.2 million, or 79 cents per diluted share, compared with $29.1 million, or 72 cents, a year earlier. The rise was attributed to sales growth in its footwear and sportswear categories and a strong euro. Sales rose 18.5 percent to $257.4 million. The company said it expects first-quarter net income to grow 14 percent to 16 percent on revenue growth of 19 percent to 21 percent. For 2004, Columbia Sportswear forecast net income growth of up to 10 percent.

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