Outdoor: Did you hear?…

WaterMark confirms relocation of some business functions to Oregon, Ed Howell lands at L.L. Bean, Colorado's Loveland Ski Area first to open in North America, OIA's website offers election guide, plus much more...
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For the week of Oct. 12-18

>> Jim Clark, WaterMark's CEO, confirmed with SNEWS® on Oct. 18 that the company would be relocating some of its business functions to a new facility in Portland, Ore., in early 2005. He also confirmed that despite rumors to the contrary, WaterMark would not be abandoning Arcata, Calif., and had, in fact, just renewed the lease on its Arcata building. "We have realized that in order to support growth and remain competitive, we would need to move certain business functions to a new location with access to a major transportation hub and a large labor pool from which to draw employees," Clark told us. The rumors were fueled earlier in the month by a shift of two water sports product line managers, the marketing position for water sports, and three water sports product development members to the Easley, S.C., WaterMark facility. Clark told us that as of yet, specific details regarding which departments and which functions would be moving to Portland and which would be staying in Arcata were in the process of still being worked out.

>> Modell’s Sporting Goods has recognized K2 by awarding the company the retailer's 2004 Sporting Goods Vendor of the Year award recognizing excellence in product and service. SNEWS® View: When K2 CEO Richard Heckmann committed to having a K2 merchandising staff in top tier stores in January, it became clear that he was serious about making sure his key accounts were well served. This, as well as the acquisition of more brands that a store such as Modell's benefits by selling, will likely result in more happy key accounts for K2 in the months to come.

>> We might have known something more was up when we announced last month that Ed Howell was leaving Columbia and his position of president of Sorel to return to the East Coast. Seems Howell was itching to return to a business he loves -- retail -- and accepted a position on Oct. 12 as L.L. Bean's chief retail officer and a member of the office of the president. He left Bean in 1996, moving over to Eastern Mountain Sports as president and CEO of the company until departing in 2002 for Columbia. No surprise that Bean wanted Howell back, since the company is certainly entering into battle for retail supremacy in the East with EMS reenergized under new ownership and REI looking hungrily at available real estate. After hitting $1 billion in sales in 1995, Bean's financial reports represented little more than a percentage point up tick each year -- essentially flat line. Though profitable, thanks to restructuring and cost-cutting in 2002 and 2003, sales at Bean's three retail stores outside of Freeport, Maine, and in the company's outlet stores (they now operate 15 throughout Maine, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, New Hampshire and Virginia) were not living up to expectations. Things appear to be turning around though, and this year Bean's sales are definitely up, looking to finally eclipse the $1.2 billion mark. With that are more indications the retailer will really be looking to make good on company CEO and President Chris McCormick's stated desire a number of years ago to expand the retail footprint of L.L. Bean. And that is where, no doubt, Howell's talents will come into play. Howell will be ably assisted by Ken Kacere who was recently promoted to senior vice president and general manager of retail. Kacere came to Bean three years ago as vice president of factory stores.

>> On Friday, Oct. 15, Colorado's Loveland Ski Area once again became the first ski resort to open in North America. Located on the Continental Divide just an hour west of Denver, Loveland has a long tradition of early opening dates. This year, an early season upslope storm, and snow-making equipment, allowed one lift to start running earlier than previous years going back to 1998 when they managed an October 13 opening. Of course, SNEWS® was there this year gauging the quality of the 24-inch base (excellent snow) on the single run as well as the mood of those skipping work and school (wildly enthusiastic). Serious skiers and boarders make Red Sox fans look like pessimists...for diehards, the next season will always be better than the last. With the official launch of the 2004/2005 ski season making national news, this unbounded optimism is good news for retailers even in distant states. An unusually wet spring and summer along the Colorado Front Range, following several years of drought, and rumors of El Nino returning has many hoping for a glorious season. No matter how bad the economy may or may not be, early snows will be the real determinant in consumer spending. But judging from the full parking lot and long lift line on a weekday in October, there is a lot of pent up demand for a strong season.

>> With the presidential election around the corner, OIA has posted a guide to the election and highlighted the presidential candidates' positions on a number of outdoor industry issues on its website. You'll also find links to OIA's Action Center to research local and statewide races with resources for ways you can get involved. The Election Guide is available at www.outdoorindustry.org/election.html or check out OIA's Government Affairs section on the OIA website, www.outdoorindustry.org.

>> If you've had an influential female mentor in your life, here's your chance to honor her. The Outdoor Industries Women's Coalition (OIWC) is accepting nominations for its fourth annual Pioneering Woman Award, which will go to a deserving woman in the outdoor industry who has distinguished herself as a mentor of other women. Nominations should be 100 words or less describing how their candidate has had a positive impact on other women's careers and specifically what they've done to demonstrate a commitment to mentoring female colleagues. Email Maile Buker at mai_buker@hotmail.com by 5 p.m. on Nov. 15. The top three nominees will be announced Dec. 15, and the winner will be revealed at the OIWC Winter Gathering Jan. 31, 2005, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The winner of the Pioneering Woman Award will receive a check for $1,000 to be donated to a charity of her choice.

>> Peter Kray's plate is piling up as he adds editorial director for the winter-sports publication Ski Press USA and still continues as editor for the winter-sports news website www.skipressworld.com and the SIA Snow Press show dailies. Kray said, "Editorial decisions relating specifically to the U.S. skiers will now be made in an environment where we have daily interaction with our readers, winter-sports events and with the industry that supports us." Publisher Jean Marc Blais points out that the appointment of Kray to oversee U.S. publications is the next logical step in the steady growth of Montreal-based Ski Press Media's international operations. With Ski Press Media's foothold in Canada, future growth is now likely to be driven from Ski Press's U.S. operations center in Santa Fe, N.M. "It's a wildly exciting time to be moving the company to the next level. Ski Press USA has developed so fast it now clearly needs to step out and develop its own identity in its own marketplace," Blais said. Ski Press USA said it will continue to build on its growing reputation as "the smartest and most progressive U.S. ski publication, but readers will start to notice a distinct evolution in the look and feel of Ski Press USA, starting with the February 'Sexy' issue."

>> The name of the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association's Randonnee Rally Race Series is getting longer as Mountain Hardwear joins as the race's second title sponsor. Now officially known as the Mountain Hardwear/Life-Link-Dynafit Randonnee Rally Race Series, the race series consists of ski mountaineering competitions that will test participants' endurance, equipment and skiing skills while skinning up and skiing down some of the toughest terrain at participating resorts and their surrounding mountains. Proceeds from the race series go to benefit local avalanche forecasting centers and local search and rescue groups. Other series sponsors are Marmot, Cloudveil, Petzl, Couloir Magazine, Backcountry Magazine, Ibex, Off-Piste Magazine, Arc'Teryx, Outdoor Research, Crazy Creek, Suunto, Croakies, Daggers Sunglasses, Clif Bar, Honey Stinger, Adventure Medical Kits, and Buff Headwear.

>> Hooked on the Outdoors magazine has expanded its website -- www.ruhooked.com -- this fall to include online forums for visitors to trade adventure stories and tips, as well as web-exclusive Gear of the Month picks and GearTrends® picks of the month. It also has added exclusive web articles on travel, gear and stories that elaborate on articles in the magazine, and Ask Angus Online for readers to submit their questions online and browse Angus archives.

>> BizRate.com recently gave Backcountry.com the "Circle of Excellence" Platinum Award winner for customer satisfaction. The award recognizes the best merchants in customer satisfaction, and are given based on above-average performance on seven key points including: overall satisfaction, product selection, ease of finding product, repurchase intent, product met expectations, on-time delivery, and customer support. BizRate developed the Circle of Excellence awards five years ago to help steer consumers toward top-performing online stores for the holiday season.

>> Columbia Sportswear plans to donate $15,000 to One World Family, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of South African children impacted by AIDS, and Chairwoman Gertrude Boyle will present the donation to the organization founders in Capetown, South Africa, on Oct. 20. One World Family and its South African partner, Community Internship and Development Center, support the work of community-based organizations in KwaZulu Natal to improve the quality of life for those suffering from the realities of AIDS. For these victims, the community organizations focus on providing home-based, foster and surrogate care as well as aid to child or granny headed households, skills development and educational opportunities. For more information, visit www.oneworldfamily.us.

>> The Winter Feels Good public awareness campaign is reaching out to teachers by adding a education section to its website (www.winterfeelsgood.com) explaining how they can start new snow-sport programs or use existing programs in their schools to encourage students to learn how to snowshoe, cross-country ski, alpine ski or snowboard. Developed by the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA), the National Association for Sport and Physical Education and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the section offers tips on how snow sports can help enhance students‚ physical and mental well-being through recreational outdoor winter activities. It also includes links to the President's Challenge website where students can learn how they can earn a President's Challenge Award by combining snow sports with other physical activities. The site includes links to a health and fitness training program developed by the USSA, how to apply for grant money to purchase snowshoes and other equipment, and a database of retail outlets and resorts.

>> Christian Mason has been appointed to the newly created position of product manager for Mountainsmith. Effective immediately, Mason will spearhead design and development coordination of the Mountainsmith product line, handle market research and competitive analysis, as well as design, development and production coordination. He will also be an integral member of the sales and marketing team. Mason's background includes sales rep for Dakine, general manager for WildWasser Sport USA and resort manager for Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colo. Mason can be reached at 800-551-5889, ext. 115, or christian@mountainsmith.com.

>> Cary Chang has joined Blurr as director of sales for the Canadian and U.S. markets. A former Canadian national climbing champion and a competitor on the international climbing circuit, his experience includes production and design work with various Canadian lifestyle clothing brands as well as owning and managing a specialty retailer and apparel company.

>> GoLite's Jo Stone is moving up the ladder from chief financial officer to the company's chief operating officer. Stone will oversee customer service, distribution, finance and administration, information technology and production.

>> Adding to his Northern California and Northern Nevada territory for Lowa Boots, rep Dan Hill will also cover Southern California, Southern Nevada and Arizona for the company. Hill will oversee sales and marketing throughout the territory taking over for Mark Fulton who is leaving to handle JanSport full time. Hill also reps for Fischer, Swix and Lowe Alpine. He's available at 530-582-4997 or danhill@usamedia.tv.

>> Unemployment is going to the dogs as modern technology is putting an international symbol of rescue out of a job. The Saint Bernard dogs of the Swiss Alps are headed for the unemployment line as helicopters and heat sensors have taken over much of the rescue work that the dogs had performed for centuries. The religious order that has raised and trained the dogs over the years at the summit of the Saint Bernard Pass is selling off the 18 adults and 16 pups. However, the brothers still know a good thing when they see it -- they are looking to sell the Saint Bernards to associations, which will be required to return the dogs to the pass each tourist season for photo-ops. Say woof!

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