After more than a year's absence from the U.S. market, Vaude is clawing its way back by announcing an exclusive distribution agreement with Liberty Mountain.
Jan Lorch, global sales manager for Vaude, told SNEWSÂ® that while the company had been seriously considering opening its own subsidiary in the U.S. (which we reported on January 10, 2005, in our story Willkommen, Vaude! Return to the U.S. planned â€“ again), the company changed its mind when Liberty expressed interest.
"When we learned that Liberty was interested in distributing our line, and then after subsequent recommendations from (our friends at Edelweiss), and other good referrals, we decided that opting for an exclusive arrangement with Liberty was the best opportunity for us," Lorch said.
While Lorch acknowledged that Vaude's ultimate goal is to have its entire line, including technical clothing and outwear, represented in the U.S., he said that Vaude is prepared to move carefully.
"Liberty certainly has experience with Event and technical clothing through Montane, but we did not want to make the mistake of overloading the relationship in the beginning," Lorch told us. "Garments is step two, that is our plan."
For now, and starting in 2006, Liberty Mountain will only offer Vaude's line of cycling packs, backpacks, sleeping bags and tents as well as the company's Lucky climbing brand and Markill stove brand.
Liberty Mountain will show the 2006 Vaude line at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, and the company is currently accepting pre-season orders.
Lorch confirmed that Liberty will also exhibit Vaude products at Interbike in September, and show the brand at a select number of regional rep shows like EORA. In all cases, Lorch said, a member of the Vaude team will support Liberty in representing the product line to customers.
SNEWSÂ® View: After a serious misstep with Windsong (click on any of the Related Story links that can be found at the end of this article), and lacking a distribution dance partner in the U.S. since May of 2004, it appears Vaude is back on track. And this is good news for retailers who enjoyed the line's quality and brand name in the past. Liberty is, in our view, absolutely the correct choice for Vaude because the company has a proven track record working successfully with international brands including Edelweiss Ropes, Singing Rock, CaVa, Pieps, Outdoor Designs, Montane, Kong, Stubai, Trangia, Ushba, SOS, Cypher and EB. Albrecht von Dewitz, the founder of Vaude, has to be smiling once again as he now has a U.S. distribution agreement in place with a distributor that has a strong track record of excellent service and rapid fulfillment. Vaude's biggest challenge will be resisting the urge to push Liberty too quickly. There's the chance that Vaude could make Liberty carry products that the U.S. market is not ready for yet. While Vaude is a very strong name in Europe, that brand name will not carry the same cache here in the U.S., especially in the already very crowded and extremely competitive outdoor apparel market. That's not to say Vaude apparel can't sell. It's just that Vaude will have to trust Liberty to pick and choose the openings and move into them with purpose and a plan.
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