Black Diamond, the current U.S. distributor for Scarpa boots, has issued a full recall on thousands of the new T2X telemark boots that had just begun arriving in stores. At issue is cracking, shattering, or breaking plastic in the cuff of the boot.
The problem was discovered when a Black Diamond rep, during an in-store clinic in the Northwest, flexed the cuff of the boot and had it shatter in his hand "like a potato chip." He grabbed another boot and flexed the cuff and this one simply cracked. Not exactly a good way to endear retail staff to a product to be sure, and embarrassing to the rep for certain.
Peter Metcalf, CEO of Black Diamond, told SNEWSÂ® that after the company was notified, it immediately pulled 15 boots from the warehouse and put each through quality control testing. Every one of the 15 boots failed.
The exact cause and extent of the problem are under investigation. Metcalf told us samples produced last winter for on-snow demos did not have any issues. Also, product samples produced by Scarpa and sent to Black Diamond for approval, and the design that Black Diamond signed off on, also did not have any problems according to Metcalf, even after rigorous testing.
Metcalf stated that Scarpa has acknowledged that there is a problem with the entire run of T2X boots following testing of its own on shipments ready to go from Italy to Norway and Japan. Apparently, Scarpa is now scrambling to correct the situation, which affects T2X boots globally.
"Scarpa has told us that the company has reportedly secured an additional factory in Montebelluna, Italy, and that this factory has already begun to remove the cuffs of the several thousand boots that were in the Scarpa warehouse awaiting shipment and replacing the affected parts with ones that perform as they should," said Metcalf.
Those boots will be sent, according to Scarpa, to Black Diamond within two weeks so that BD can begin re-supplying retailers with their preseason T2X orders.
"We have informed all of our retailers, and all are currently sending product back to us. We are covering the cost of shipping so there will be no out-of-pocket expenses for our retailers," said Metcalf.
Once new T2X boots arrive from Italy and are reshipped to retailers, Black Diamond will begin reissuing invoices.
In the meantime, Black Diamond has already packaged up all the boots in its warehouse and will be shipping those boots back to Scarpa for the company to fix. Apparently, those boots will be used to fill the orders placed by retailers in Japan and Norway.
From all the testing publicity and press-room buzz, the T2X was poised to be the hot new ski boot for this season. It is the only new model from either Scarpa or Garmont, and while Crispi has a new top-end boot, it was not in the same category as the T2X according to reports.
While the silver lining in all of this is that BD was able to catch this early on in the selling season (better in October than November to be sure) there is little doubt that missing even a few days of the early-season, full-margin selling period is obviously not good for business.
SNEWSÂ® has already learned of one retailer canceling its preseason orders simply because the recall will cause it to miss 45-days of the pre-Thanksgiving shopping period â€“ a critical time for many ski retailers.
SNEWSÂ® View: As SNEWSÂ® reported in July of 2005, Black Diamond and Scarpa announced a parting of ways after 18 years of partnership â€” an event set to become final at the end of December. Although this is clearly a manufacturing issue resting firmly at the feet of Scarpa, the last thing BD needed was a recall on a high profile product from a company it was terminating a distribution agreement with. Also, this marks a rocky start for the new Scarpa North America distributor. However, the recall is happening under BD's watch, so Scarpa North America can breathe a small sigh of relief. Still, if Scarpa is unable to re-supply Black Diamond with boots so that BD can re-supply its retailers, customers will be lost, and they may or may not come back to the fold.
Scarpa certainly must realize that while the recall is under BD's watch, the consequences of making good on the company's manufacturing oopsie rests entirely on Scarpa's shoulders. How it moves on from here and treats its retailers will determine how loyal retailers remain to the brand â€” no matter how good the product is, and we all know the product is very, very good (when it is made well.)
Consider that over the past few seasons, Garmont has eaten away at Scarpa's market share and will likely continue to do so, especially in light of this news. The one company smiling most broadly over this news though has to be Crispi, which with its new boot, may be the one beneficiary with the most to gain as the company has long been a distant third in a three-way race.
If Scarpa does what it says, and BD gets replacement boots by November 1, and a continual supply of replacement boots to fill in ASAP and fill-in orders, we are confident that the matter will be resolved with minimal impact. Having tested the boots extensively (a review is pending), we are certain the T2X will be very popular â€“ the plastic on our test boots was perfect.