In a move that many have told SNEWS® was surprising only because it took so long, Columbia and Montrail general manager Scott Tucker parted ways March 2. Brad Little has been named interim GM at Montrail. Little’s 25 years in the industry includes stints at adidas, Nike ACG and, most recently, Columbia-owned Sorel.
SNEWS® was told by company insiders that Little and Jay Peery, Montrail's national sales manager (and the only remaining member of the team from Montrail prior to the Columbia acquisition in January 2006), will be working closely together with the Sorel sales force to refocus the company energy on improving the brand’s level of customer service, retailer communication, distribution and margins.
Michael McCormick, vice president of sales for Columbia, told SNEWS® that the company was embarrassed by Montrail's fall from grace in the eyes of so many specialty retailers, evidenced by the 2006 SNEWS® Retailer Survey. In that survey, Montrail garnered numerous votes as a company that was "most difficult to do business with" and not one single vote in the category of "best company to do business with," where it had ranked high in 2004 before it began to slip in 2005.
"The Montrail brand is a great brand and presents a substantial opportunity as a premier specialty brand," said McCormick. "I can promise you and our retailers that we are not going to stop until we get it right."
SNEWS® View: For the right reasons, change is good for everyone. And Scott Tucker moving on to "new opportunities" was a needed change for Tucker, Columbia and Montrail. It would not be fair to lay the blame for Montrail's popularity plummet either at the feet of Tucker or Columbia. It is more complicated than that, though both do have to shoulder a lion's share of the responsibility for allowing things to continue down such a rough path for so long. Montrail is still a brand trail runners and retailers want to believe in. But time is running out. In the ultra and trail running communities, it is no longer a go-to brand. In fact, it's barely even a considered brand presently, appearing less and less on the dirty feet of trail runners. Not necessarily because the shoes so far have changed much, but there has been increasing frustration among its retailers who don’t get orders, get them late, get them wrong, don’t get calls back and don’t experience good or much communication. That can only be tolerated for so long before the retailers give up, carry less and perhaps don’t recommend the brand because of frustration.
Columbia and the Montrail team have few opportunities left to get it right, and we hope they do get it right … quickly. Retailers have asked us why we think the Montrail integration was so rough and troubled when the Mountain Hardwear acquisition went, for the most part, pretty smoothly. The answer, simply, is with Mountain Hardwear -- Columbia got a high-octane brand driven by a fully intact and very talented management team with years of outdoor industry experience. With Montrail, Columbia got a very good brand with a superb market reputation, but hardly anyone from the management team to keep the brand's flame burning brightly through not only an acquisition transition, but a physical move of the headquarters.