K2 has set forth plans to shut down Tubbs Snowshoes' Stowe, Vt., manufacturing facility by early February 2005. The exact date of the factory closing has not been nailed down until K2 is satisfied all snowshoe orders for the 2004/2005 winter season have been fulfilled. Following the closing of the factory, administrative positions will also be moved, this time across the country to K2's winter-sports group headquarters on Vashon Island in Washington.
A total of 27 full-time and 30 to 40 seasonal jobs will be eliminated in Vermont as a result of the factory closing Kathy Murphy, brand business director for the K2 snowshoe businesses, confirmed with SNEWSÂ®. However, Robert Marcovitch, president of K2 Sports, added that K2 has identified key full-time administrative employees and "created a path for them to move" to the Vashon company headquarters. He did not know, at this early time, how many would be making the move. For those who elect not to move or whose positions are being terminated, severance packages are being provided as well as assistance in finding new employment.
Ed Kiniry, the former chief executive officer of WinterQuest LLC, which sold Tubbs, Atlas and Little Bear snowshoes to K2 in October 2003, will remain headquartered in Vermont, along with Murphy and a few others in charge of marketing, sales and product development. Kiniry's contract with K2 is up in October 2006.
Tubbs started as a snowshoe and ski company in Norway, Maine, around 1906 when William Tubbs manufactured snowshoes by hand by steam bending ash. He made snowshoes that went to both world wars and up Mount Everest. Steam bending of ash and forming into very durable and useable snowshoes is something that Tubbs will continue to embrace.
"Even though Tubbs currently manufactures less than 500 pair of the handmade ash snowshoes each year, it is an intrinsic part of the Tubbs' heritage and a heritage we must embrace and support in Vermont," Marcovitch told us.
Despite the fact that K2's China facility is over 2 million square feet and currently employs 7,500 workers, Murphy told us she is very optimistic that retailers and consumers will not notice any difference in the quality or even culture that Tubbs is known for.
"Though I have not been to China yet, I have been told that there is a real appreciation of the culture, fabric and DNA of the snowshoes brand by the workers building the Atlas snowshoes, and by those that will be building Tubbs snowshoes," Murphy said.
"Certainly what we have seen to date from the Atlas brand experience is that the transition to China has been a very good one, that the quality of the products remains very high, and that on balance, deliveries remain on time. That same expertise is being applied to the Tubbs transition, so I have every reason to believe it will all be good," she added.
As for the building that currently houses Tubbs, it is owned by WinterQuest. It is not known if the company plans to sell it, but insiders tell us that a sale is likely since the real estate market in the Stowe area remains quite lucrative.
SNEWSÂ® View: The moving of Tubbs' production from Vermont to China was inevitable. Kiniry even told SNEWSÂ® when we chatted with him last year following the move of Atlas' production to China that it was not a matter of if, but when Tubbs would be shifting production. Why was the move from Vermont made? Some will intimate that it was necessary as there are growing competitors already making products in China and getting more margin as a result. Perhaps, though peeking around the landscape the only real manufacturer we could come up with that might be able to lay claim to growing competition and China-made is Yukon Charlie, the company that makes snowshoes for L.L. Bean at the lower end of the price-point scale. Frankly, we believe the move to China is more about fully utilizing a facility that K2 had invested heavily in. No sense in having your production scattered all over the globe when it would be more efficient from a cost standpoint to centralize. And production efficiency is everything to a company that is currently enjoying $1.3 billion in sales from 35 brands.