The parent company of the Rab has acquired Lowe Alpine for an undisclosed amount from an Italian bankruptcy court.
Equip Outdoor Technologies, privately held and based in the United Kingdom, will relocate Lowe Alpine's Italian operations to Kendal, England, where Lowe Alpine continues to make the brand's packs, and it plans to reestablish its line of apparel.
Before it entered bankruptcy court, SNEWS® first reported the financial difficulties facing the brand as its former owner Asolo shuttered Lowe Alpine's global apparel operations in Italy. Click here to read our our Aug. 20, 2010, story, “Lowe Alpine quietly closes apparel side of global business.”
Even back then, there seemed to be writing on the wall that Lowe Alpine would soon have a separate future. Asolo co-owner Luca Zanatta told SNEWS that the company was moving Lowe Alpine's pack operations back to England, and Asolo would focus "its resources and time now on what we know much better... making shoes."
The acquisition of the beleaguered Lowe Alpine brand heralds a renaissance for the company, said Matt Gowar (photo, right), owner of Equip. Once lauded as an industry leader, Lowe Alpine’s reputation fell in recent years amid reports of missed deliveries and poor customer service.
“Now that Lowe Alpine will have the global backing of the Equip infrastructure, retailers can be confident in stocking a brand that has the ability to fly right off the shelves,” Gowar told SNEWS.
Equip’s management will align Lowe Alpine globally in part by leveraging the success of Rab to foster brand support, said Gowar, who has spent the past three years in Louisville, Colo. (outside of Denver), establishing the Rab U.S. office. The lessons from that endeavor will be critical in bringing Lowe Alpine’s potential to fruition, he said.
“We are certainly aware of the trouble that Lowe Alpine has been having, but we are confident in the brand’s ability,” he told SNEWS.
Bruce Franks, general manager for Asolo USA, said the staff for the current U.S. division of Lowe Alpine at the company’s New Hampshire headquarters greeted the news enthusiastically.
“This is a brand that has been well respected in the past and it is being bought by a brand that is extremely careful and caring,” said Franks. “Lowe Alpine is going to a company that brings forward a great deal of product integrity.”
Gowar said he planned to focus immediately on developing the Lowe Alpine apparel line in Europe and launching it there by 2013. He said he expected to launch a new line in America by fall/winter 2015.
“We are fully committed to doing it right to help the Lowe Alpine apparel realize the success that it is capable of,” he said, adding that he does not anticipate a full turn around within a year. Rather, the company is committed to spending adequate time cultivating and rebuilding the Lowe Alpine brand.
As for what management and personnel changes may result at the brand’s U.S. headquarters in New Hamshire, Gowar said it is premature to speculate.
“We hope to know by the end of the week (July 15) what this will mean for both the Equip/Rab office in Louisville, Colo., and the Asolo/Lowe Alpine Office in New Hampshire,” he said.
The current U.K., German and Dutch management teams together with the packs and sales teams in the Kendal office will spearhead the brand’s growth. Specifically, David Udberg, the current Lowe Alpine U.K. managing director, will take over as head of sales and marketing for all Equip brands while the rest of the Lowe Alpine U.K. management team consisting of Shona Taylor, controller; Martyn Hurn, head of the packs development team; and Dave Suddes, sales director of Lowe Alpine U.K., will continue in their existing roles.
Chris Harding, managing director of Equip, will take over as head of design for Lowe Alpine as well as all other Equip brands. Gowar said he planned to keep separate the design and development of Rab and Lowe Alpine clothing.
-- Rachel Walker