Outdoor: Did you hear?...

Columbia Sportswear raids counterfeiting stores in Malaysia, Climb High brands post 36% increase in Q1 sales, Duncan Robins sells Boldt's assets, Outside announces Gear of the Year winners, plus much more...
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>> Last week, Columbia Sportswear joined forces with authorities in Kuala Lumpur to raid three Malaysian Factory Outlet Stores selling counterfeit Columbia Sportswear apparel, seizing more than 1,400 counterfeit shirts and pants using Columbia labels. The raids took place simultaneously at three separate Factory Outlet Stores in Kuala Lumpur, which have been known to deal in counterfeit high-end products for discounted prices. Due to the large number of counterfeit product found at the three stores, Columbia is working with local authorities to determine if criminal or civil sanctions may ensue. In other company news, Columbia has signed a license agreement with C.O. Lynch Enterprises for the design, manufacture and marketing of a new line of hunting and fishing waders and ankle-fit rubber boots. The collection will debut in select specialty and sporting goods retailers in fall 2005. Columbia said because of the items' highly specialized production, it pursued a license agreement rather than produce in-house.

>> In the "ya can't buy this kind of promotion" category, outdoor companies HighGear, Leki, Zeal Optics, St. Croix and MSR garnered nifty coverage in a Fortune Small Business article titled, "Outdoor Gear from Small Companies."Click here to read the full story. Fortune Small Business is a general interest business magazine published 10 times a year as a joint venture by The Fortune Group at Time Inc. and American Express Small Business Services and is delivered to over 1 million subscribers as well as sold on newsstands.

>> Climb High, the U.S. distributor of the Mammut, Raichle, Ajungilak (we still hate that name -- what, exactly is an Ajungilak?) and ToKo brands, told SNEWS® that the company is continuing to build on the sales momentum from 2003 with a 36 percent increase in sales for the first quarter of 2004. Apparel is the big winner, up 86 percent with the company also seeing strong response to the Mammut Focus harness and its 8 mm Dyneema Contact slings. Barryvox sales (Mammut's avalanche transceiver) doubled compared with last year. Raichle and ToKo are starting to realize modest sales increases we are told, thanks in large part to a refocused sales and marketing effort. SNEWS® View: What of Ajungilak? While Climb High didn't make mention of the brand in its email to us, we surmise that given the challenging sleeping bag market of late, selling a brand Americans don't recognize, let alone have a heckuva time trying to say, has proven more challenging than perhaps parent Mammut realized. That's not to say the bags aren't good ones. Our tests of the bags in the last six months garner raves from all testers.

>> High Sierra Sport Company has been recognized in the Circle of Corporate Champions with a Bronze award presented by the Children's Memorial Foundation. The Bronze award recognizes High Sierra for the company's $16,000 in donations this year in an ongoing effort to help the Children's Memorial Foundation enhance the health of children nationwide.

>> Outside Magazine has named the Gear of the Year winners in the just-published 2004 Outside Buyer's Guide. And the winners are, in no particular order: Julbo Advance sunglasses, Nike Triax Elite watch, Steiner Peregrine 10x42 binoculars, Canon Digital Rebel camera, Dana Design Raid Z backpack, Lowa Vertex GTX hiking boots, Mountain Hardwear Airjet 2 tent, Feathered Friends Osprey sleeping bag, Jetboil Personal Cooking System stove, REI Momentum Pullover jacket, The North Face Ultra Gore-Tex XCR trail running shoe, Santa Cruz Blur mountain bike, Necky Mission kayak, Bauer Vehicle Gear Back Road II Pro car rack, and Red Oxx Safari-Beano's Bag luggage. SNEWS® View: We have been asked how Outside's Gear of the Year and Backpacker's Editor's Choice Awards differ. While neither of the awards are, as best as we can tell, advertising-driven in any way, the primary difference between the two is that Backpacker opts for recognizing gear chosen by a panel of expert staff editors, while Outside relies on each of the authors of the various Buyer's Guide reviews (many of whom are freelance) to name the gear that was their favorite in the test. Meaning, if you are feeling grateful for an award mention in the Outside Buyer's Guide, and well you should because that's free promotion with a gold seal, be sure to thank the author of the particular article naming your product as worthy of recognition.

>> According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), March retail sales in the GAFS category (general merchandise stores, clothing and clothing accessories stores, furniture and home furnishings stores, electronics and appliances stores, and sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores) rose 8.2 percent over last year and increased 0.6 percent adjusted over February. GAFS sales for the first quarter rose an astonishing 9.8 percent. March retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gas stations and restaurants) rose 1.8 percent seasonally adjusted for the month and 10.2 percent unadjusted year-over-year. "Though March retail sales were strong, it could be difficult to sustain this growth in the second quarter," said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. "Year-over-year comparisons will become more difficult and the economy is still facing lingering concerns including rising energy costs and instability in Iraq." SNEWS® View: While all this is overall good news for the economy, a detailed look at the breakdown reveals that the category which includes sporting goods and hobby actually dipped 0.7 percent and was one of the few categories that reflected a decline. Not exactly a glowing endorsement that the economy is sufficiently turned around to inspire folks to purchase products for outdoor and fitness pursuits. Initial indications are that April is faring a tad better, with high hopes for May sales on the horizon.

>> A couple of weeks ago we wrote about over-used business clichés, which have also spread into our industries, in our "did you hear" section of news, like, 24/7, it's not rocket science, at the end of the day… (see SNEWS® March 29, 2004). Now, we get a press release from an agency that calls itself a "news" group that has more nonsense in it than some of the worst press releases we've ever read. The group, which calls itself a "centralized sports industry resource," was announcing a partnership with a "leader in supply chain execution solutions for sophisticated environments." (Stay with us here, this is only the first sentence.) Called a strategic partnership, it said it "closely aligns both companies’ business initiatives by providing a relevant and innovative solution to operational performance issues." SNEWS® View: We’re wondering what a sophisticated environment is, exactly, and how a supply chain execution solution is supposed to help? Frankly, a supply chain execution sounds to us like someone is going to be executed which we suppose makes sense because clearly they had operational performance issues and this was the most humane way of treating the disease.

>> SmartWool has entered into a partnership with Montrail as the exclusive sock sponsor of the Montrail Ultrarunning Team, comprised of 75 top U.S. ultrarunners. SmartWool will also be a presenting sponsor of the Montrail UltraCup made up of nine of the top ultra events nationwide. At each Montrail UltraCup, spectators and competitors can demo a variety of Montrail shoes and the SmartWool Adrenaline sock.

>> As of April 20, PowderFish Mountain Apparel is shutting down its Boston office and relocating to new digs in Denver, Colo. The company will reopen for business at its new location on May 3. The new contact information is: PowderFish Mountain Apparel, 669 S. Corona St., Denver, CO 80209; 303-777-2183.

>> Chet Cisek, owner of the Wild Moon sales agency, has joined the MountainSmith team as a regional sales and marketing representative for Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and upper Michigan. Wild Moon currently represents Sierra Designs, Crescent Moon Snowshoes, Minus33 wool undergarments and Trailfinder. Cisek can be reached at 612-781-3634.

>> White Sierra is relocating its corporate headquarters and warehouse to Sunnyvale, effective April 19. The move follows several years of growth and profitability for White Sierra, according to a statement issued by the company. The company's new home, a 40,000-square-foot facility, was purchased by the company for an undisclosed amount. White Sierra's entire staff of approximately 30 employees will make the move from the company's previous location in Santa Clara, less than 10 miles away. White Sierra's phone and fax numbers will remain the same. The new mailing address is: White Sierra, 305 Soquel Way, Sunnyvale, CA 94085.

>> Duncan Robins told SNEWS® that he has just completed the transfer of assets of Boldt to an unnamed company which, he tells us, will most likely introduce the hydration and LED technologies separately to the market when ready. Robins is currently working as a consultant for several companies, writing, and contemplating his next business launch and venture. Folks can reach Robins by email at Duncrobins@aol.com.

>> Big Agnes has recently become a corporate partner of the American Alpine Club (AAC) and a corporate sponsor of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA), and sees this level of financial commitment as essential in supporting the "pursuits of the climbers, mountaineers and guides who benefit from their work."

>> Cathy Wiedemer has joined Paige Boucher as part of Mountain Hardwear's Rocky Mountain-based media relations and communications team. Wiedemer comes to Mountain Hardwear from the Steamboat Ski Resort where she has worked for the last 17 years most recently as public relations manager. To accommodate the expanded staff, the PR offices have moved to a bigger location at 729 Oak St., Steamboat Springs, CO 80487. Phone numbers remain unchanged. Weidemer can be reached at cweidemer@mountainhardwear.com. Boucher can be reached at pboucher@mountainhardwear.com.

>> K2 Sports has hired Robert "Bernie" Bernthal, as brand director for the European market. Bernthal will work out of K2 Sports' European headquarters in Penzburg, Germany. American-born Bernthal is fluent in French and German. In addition to his most recent work touring the world marketing the world's first wave simulator, Bernthal worked as international youth marketing director for Swatch, based in Switzerland. In addition to working with famous athletes such as Shaun Palmer, Tony Hawk, Conan Hayes and Michael Johnson, Bernthal also developed and ran Swatch’s Boarder-X Tour, Biker-X World Cup and Swatch-sponsored snowparks in the United States and Europe. Bernthal moved to Europe in 1979 and became the first U.S.-born soccer player to play professionally in France.

>> Grabber Performance Group has promoted Chris Pappas to national sales manager. He will be responsible for overseeing all sales efforts and will report directly to General Manager Gary Gerds.

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