Outdoor: Did you hear?...

Sportif president suffers injuries in bike accident, VF Corp. reports 14 percent rise in outdoor coalition sales, Hammerhead manufacturing sold to TwentyTwo Designs, WWA rallies against snowmobilers in Yellowstone, American Outdoor Products names Liberty Mountain as newest distributor, plus much more...
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>> John Kirsch Jr., president of Sportif USA, was in a dirt bike accident on Feb. 14. Kirsch, 37, suffered a severe spinal injury and a collapsed lung and is currently listed by the hospital in fair condition. During Kirsch's recovery, Sportif's executive management team has pulled together to ensure little or no interruptions to daily business operations. Well-wishers are encouraged to send their messages to getwell@sportif.com where they'll be received and forwarded to John, who, we are told, remains in very good spirits.

>> Included in VF Corp.'s (NYSE: VFC) fourth-quarter and year-end earnings results, it was reported that sales in the company's Outdoor coalition, which includes The North Face, Jansport and Eastpak, rose 14 percent to $581 million in 2003 from $508 million in 2002. According to VF, the increase was the result of a 25 percent sales increase in The North Face brand in both North America and Europe. "We've identified the outdoor category as a key growth engine for VF, and will continue to aggressively pursue growth in this category, both internally and via acquisitions," said Mackey McDonald, chairman and CEO of VF. He added that for 2004, The North Face's North American preseason orders are up 25 percent for spring with fall exceeding a 30 percent increase. In Europe, spring orders are up 25 percent in local currency with fall not yet complete but trending above 25 percent. In 2004, VF plans to open a North Face retail store in Boston, five stores in Europe and "continue our market penetration across Europe with plans to add an additional 1,000 doors." Not to be left behind, the other brands in the outdoor coalition have plans for 2004, as well. Come fall, Jansport will launch a new line of outerwear and fleece products that will leverage the product development, design and sourcing capabilities of The North Face. Jansport will also be entering the mass market with a new line of high value, high style packs, according to VF. Additionally, VF is repositioning Eastpak in the United States using the edgy and more contemporary look of its European counterpart to capitalize on the growing action-sports segment. For the company as a whole, VF posted fourth-quarter sales of $1.39 billion, compared with $1.31 billion in 2002. Nautica, which VF bought in August 2003, added $177 million to fourth-quarter sales and was touted as a major contributor to the company's bottom line. Full year sales for 2003 rose 2 percent to $5.21 billion compared with 2002's $5.08 billion. McDonald said VF anticipates a 5 percent increase in both sales and earnings in 2004, adding that the "outdoor retail group is an important contributor to our business and we're making the appropriate investments in its future." For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html

>> Norma Hansen, who nominated the winner of the first Pioneering Woman Award two years ago, took home the third-annual prize herself during the Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition (OIWC) Winter Gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hansen, vice president of member resources for the Outdoor Industry Association, was among the finalists, which included Laura Miera of Marmot and Kim Walker of Outdoor Divas. Hansen was recognized for her efforts of promoting and supporting the industry, playing a crucial role in OIA's rise in membership from 85 companies in the early '90s to today's 1,200. "Norma embodies the ideals of the OIWC with respect to mentorship and furthering the industry sisterhood by leading up, down and across the outdoor industry gender matrix," said OIWC's Maile Buker. Hansen said, "It truly is an honor to be recognized by the OIWC. I continue to be a strong supporter of all that you currently do and are working to accomplish. Receiving this award has only inspired me to reach out and do more." The OIWC is donating $1,000 to The Women's Alliance, a national association that supports organizations that provide career support to low-income women free of charge, in Hansen's name. Previous award recipients include Kitty Bradley of Catalyst Communications and Rachael Ligtenberg of REI.

>> Russell Rainey, founder of Rainey Designs and creator of the HammerHead and SuperLoop telemark bindings, has sold the HammerHead manufacturing and distribution rights to TwentyTwo Designs, LLC, also based in Wilson, Wyo. The new company is named for Wyoming Highway 22, which runs through Wilson up and over Teton Pass. Owners Chris Valiante and Collins Pringle told SNEWS® that they plan to add a limited number of dedicated retail shops to their distribution plan, as well as work to increase consumer exposure, but essentially will operate the company in a similar fashion to Rainey. Rainey will continue to provide design and production advice to TwentyTwo Designs, as he moves into a full-time position with Christ in the Tetons, a Christian outdoor adventure ministry he helped to found. SNEWS View: Rainey has been likened to the Paul Ramer of the tele world -- mad scientist cum incredibly talented engineer with a huge heart, but not exactly bubbling over with business savvy. Valiente already has experience with the HammerHead, having worked with Rainey to redesign the heel plate and climbing bar last year. It also appears as if the two new owners have a keen sense of business skills to bolster up their youthful energy and passion, and that bodes well for the brand and company.

>> Russell Corp. (NYSE: RML) reported fiscal 2003 fourth quarter net income of $14.5 million, or $.44 per diluted share, which included non-recurring favorable tax effects of $2.6 million, or $.08 per share, compared to $14.5 million, or $.45 per diluted share, in the prior year. For the 2003 fourth quarter, a 13-week period, net sales were $302.4 million, a decrease of 2 percent, or $6.0 million, from 2002's $308.4 million quarter, a 14-week period. In the United States, net sales were $279.0 million compared to $285.8 million in the year-ago quarter. For the 2003 fourth quarter, net sales in the Athletic channel were up 19 percent, driven by Russell's acquisitions of Spalding and Bike. For fiscal 2003, net sales were up $21.9 million to $1.186 billion, a 1.9 percent increase over sales of $1.164 billion in fiscal 2002. Gross profit was $344.1 million, or a 29.0 percent gross margin, for fiscal 2003 versus a gross profit of $338.6 million, or a 29.1 percent gross margin, in the prior year. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.snewsnet.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html

>> More than 100 skiers from around the nation gathered in Yellowstone National Park on Feb. 14 to speak out against a Feb. 10 federal court ruling that again allows snowmobile use in the park. The rally, hosted by Winter Wildlands Alliance (WWA), took place just inside the park's West Gate, which is now the entryway for up to 440 snowmobiles per day. On Feb. 10, U.S. District Judge Clarence Brimmer issued a temporary restraining order that suppresses a pending ban on snowmobiling in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. Brimmer ruled that without the order, companies that rely on snowmobiling in the parks would suffer irreparable harm because of lost business. A Dec. 16 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan reinstated a Clinton-era plan to phase out snowmobile use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The effect of the court's ruling would have been to reduce snowmobile use in the parks this year by half and eliminate snowmobile use next year. Many residents of the park's gateway community of West Yellowstone expressed concerns that the Dec. 16 ruling would reduce winter tourism dollars. Ironically, the WWA event was originally scheduled to be an attempt at re-introducing human-powered winter recreationists to the park. Many skiers and snowshoers avoided Yellowstone in the winter because it was previously considered to be a haven of motorized recreation. Winter Wildlands expects the long-term effect of a snowmobile ban in the parks to actually be an increase in tourism dollars as more user-groups flock to a safer, quieter, more pristine Yellowstone, while snowmobilers continue to utilize the more than 1,000 miles of snowmobile trails just outside the park. WWA officials estimated that the attendees of their celebration pumped more than $40,000 into local economies.

>> Liberty Mountain has been named the newest distributor for American Outdoor Products (AOP), the manufacturer of Backpacker's Pantry, Evolution Cookware, Outback Oven, Astronaut Foods and Action Snacks. Liberty joins a distribution team for AOP that includes Peregrine Outfitters for the East Coast and Red Pine Outdoor Equipment for Canada.

>> Our hearts go out to the Life-Link family who lost one of their own earlier this month with the death of Ray Azar, the company's CFO, in an avalanche while skiing down a peak known as the Pyramid, just north of Teton Pass in Wyoming. Click here to read a complete story that appeared in the Jackson Hole News & Guide on Feb. 4.

>> Wenonah Canoe -- www.wenonah.com -- has released another collectible tin sign, dubbed Master of the River. This sign depicts a canoeist's sudden encounter with a bear at a blind bend in whitewater. Each tin sign is designed as a replica of the popular advertising signs of the past decades posted around the country promoting everything from sodas to hair tonic.

>> Action Optics has launched its redesigned website, www.actionoptics.com. The goal was to make the site more user-friendly and far more useful to the end-user in terms of finding answers to questions. The new website adds new easy-to-read information on lens materials, lens tints and polarization technology. The redesign also highlights new features such as an expanded, easy-to-find prescription services section, and a straightforward online order form for polarized prescription sunglasses -- which should prove very useful to retailers who need to assist customers with Rx needs.

>> Fischer Skis U.S. is expanding into a new location in Manchester, N.H., 15 miles from its current location in Concord, N.H. Fischer will break ground this June on the new building and it is anticipated the construction will be completed by the end of December 2004. It will encompass 32,000 square feet doubling Fischer's present office and warehouse space. Fischer plans to move into the new U.S. headquarters February/March 2005.

>> CANADA -- Groupe Sports Odyssée Inc. has changed its name to Momentum Distribution Inc. as a result of a new organizational structure turning the business into a holding company. Momentum Distribution is a management company that operates three divisions that are responsible for managing their own respective brands. These subsidiaries are: Sports Odyssée (Pearl Izumi, Tifosi), C4 Distribution (Hammer, Nikita, Sessions and Split) and F3 Distribution (Agency, Alpinestars, Line Vans, Von Zipper). Each imports gear and clothing from the United States, Europe and Asia and distributes them exclusively throughout Canada through 1,600 storefronts. With the name change, Momentum Distribution has a new phone number, 450-466-5115, and new fax number, 450-466-2888.

>> GoLite has hired Brad Dorough as its new sales representative for the Mid-Atlantic region. Dorough has spent close to a decade on the manufacturing side of the outdoor business as a sales and service manager with Petzl USA. Now back on the East Coast, Dorough has launched his own business as an independent sales rep. Dorough will manage GoLite and Petzl business within Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. You can contact him by phone at 540-953-0848 or via email at btdorough@adelphia.net.

>> Bill Sweedler, president and CEO of Windsong Inc., has appointed Ron Page as the new president of Windsong Outdoor LLC, the exclusive distributor of Vaude in the United States. Page, formerly the senior vice president of Windsong Outdoor, replaces Read Worth who left the company in January 2004. Prior to joining Windsong Outdoor last June, Page was senior executive vice president of Deckers Outdoor Corp. of Goleta, Calif. Page will be based in the company's San Francisco office.

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