Ed Ruzic has resigned from his position as general manager of Lafuma North America and launched his own company, Russi Mountainworks. Ruzic also reacquired Madden Mountaineering.
Russi Mountainworks will be based in Boulder, Colo., and produce nothing but high-end packs for the specialty market, Ruzic told SNEWS. And yes, he realizes the market is crowded, that price points are low, and that the market in general is flat. So why launch another pack brand?
"I think that regardless of the market or economic conditions, there will always be demand for high-end product that has limited distribution, great customer service and superior quality," he said.
"Our packs will be very high end. I am not interested in competing at the mass-market level. I am not interested in high volume or producing off shore," Ruzic added.
Russi will begin its quest to open just 100 dealers at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer winter trade show and the company guarantees that it will support those dealers by ensuring exclusive territories.
"I will make this guarantee that we will be out of the business before we open 101 stores. We also promise that our products will be in stock all the time. With our business model, I don't require preseason orders and while we have a means for offering close-outs on our website for those times when we make a bad call, we are in no way seeking to increase sales through low pricing," Ruzic said.
Russi's model relies heavily on an electronic distribution strategy the company will officially unveil at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. Authorized dealers of Russi product will be able to log into www.russiusa.com and place orders online. But that's just the teaser. Retailers will also be able to view their purchasing history online, check inventory levels, manage warranties and repairs, check available credit, view open orders and more.
Ruzic told SNEWS, "When a customer places an order with us, they'll receive an immediate confirmation of that order and when the order ships, they'll receive a notification along with a tracking number so they can know where their order is at all times until it arrives at their store."
Why just packs? "I'm a bag man. And I know I can offer something to the market that will get retailers and consumers excited about what they see. We will always stick to packs because we are pack people totally, nothing more."
Russi's line of packs will be very sport-specific, Ruzic told us. Using a patent-pending soft-shell external frame, the Exo-Stretch will turn heads, Ruzic said. The frame design eliminates the need for rigid aluminum stays and allows the pack to better hug the body of the user, making the packs ideal for active sports such as trekking, rock climbing, ice climbing and backcountry skiing.
Oh, and Ruzic states his packs will carry an unconditional lifetime guarantee. As long as the original owner has the pack, the company will repair or replace it -- period.
SNEWS View: We love to hear about product launches like this. It's not just new product, it is an entire concept of product and production and delivery all wrapped up into a forward-thinking business plan. In many ways, Ruzic has stumbled onto a way to embrace an old-fashioned business approach in an electronic platform. Great idea, Ed. We wish you well!