Salewa will build off six years of footwear experience for its limited North American launch into the outdoor apparel market. The targeted introduction of approximately 60 pieces will concentrate on its core alpine and run-hike apparel and hit shelves in August 2017.
The brand enters the U.S. and Canadian apparel market when other European brands are leaving. Berghaus and Bergan's of Norway have pulled out, while Millet will shift to an exclusive distribution partnership with Backcountry.com. As part of the family-owned Oberalp Group SPA, Salewa will focus on long-term growth, something like a 5-year plan, without the quarterly expectations of public companies.
Brian Mecham, Salewa North America's general manager, said the brand has the infrastructure and service in place to support the addition of apparel. "And from a brand and product perspective, we continue to believe Salewa is well positioned for the North American market," he said. "The feedback we’ve received from dealers who’ve been exposed to the line and brand positioning further substantiates this." Mecham added that the long-term perspective on growth meant the brand could continue to emphasize quality over quantity.
A group of selected specialty retailers will initiate the apparel launch. The brand chose these partners for their success with Salewa footwear, reputation and a history of supporting new entries to the market.
Mike Donahue, Chief Instigating Officer for the Vermont-based Outdoor Gear Exchange, said he's been aware of Salewa since the '90s and liked the apparel he'd seen at international trade shows since. He was among the dealers that sold Salewa footwear when that launched, and was impressed with the product quality. "While that was a new venture for Salewa globally, the company's apparel is well established and the smart, tight collection we previewed was cherry picked to go together and be a great way to introduce the brand to our customers," Donahue said
The TirolWool jackets reflect the heritage, ethos and technology of Salewa's apparel. Headquartered in the autonomous South Tyrol region of Italy, the brand works with nearby wool farmers for a sustainable insulation and will debut Celliant technology in outdoor apparel. Celliant is a U.S. developed tech that uses thermo-reactive minerals fused with fibers to reflect body heat. The claim is that infrared light increases blood flow, and so aids in performance and recovery. The Fanes TirolWool Hooded Jacket will retail for $219.
The majority of the new apparel will come from two other collections. The Ortles collection is designed for alpine and ski mountaineering, with hybrid constructions of Gore-Tex, down and fleece. The Pedroc collection is a lightweight run and hike line, with a a broad thermal range and performance attributes. Noting the high foot traffic in the mountains during the fall season, and the delayed onset of winter, Salewa seeks to tap into a fall audience that stays active well into the fourth quarter. Salewa will position these garments as Q3 options to help freshen retailer inventories, when summer gear is moving to sales racks. On the performance end, the apparel is designed for those who use mountains for training or sustained "hill" workouts. It's a budding trend, but one that Salewa has targeted specifically.
Already part of an international business reaching into Asia and the Americas from its European base, Salewa is prepared to tap into its established product collections as its apparel business grows. "Our goal is to maintain our brand position and strategically introduce product that is aligned with the end consumer from an activity, product feature, and value perspective as we continue to grow in the right way," Mecham said.