After nearly 13 months of a new company direction that recently began garnering media attention for innovative footwear designs, a licensing agreement with Five Ten, and a 2002 ispo Outdoor Award, Vasque's parent company Redwing has decided to retrench, restructure, and bring the entire Vasque operation back in-house.
As of May 3, John Connelly is no longer the general manager of Vasque because he said he would not relocate from Bozeman, Mont., to Redwing, Minn., where the parent company is based. Connelly had moved the Vasque offices from Redwing to Bozeman last year when he was hired.
Connelly is as upbeat as can be expected by the change. "I want Vasque to do well as there are great people still there, and I feel some equity in the brand's current and future success," Connelly told SNEWS®. "I don't want retailers to get too nervous about the change, and I want the sales reps to feel motivated as they go into their new selling season."
Rick Appelsies, marketing manager for Vasque, told us that other than Connelly, the Vasque team of Mark Day, George Brown, Mark Mathews, and Jack Tackle, remains essentially the same which he said bodes well for the continued stability of brand direction.
SNEWS View: It will be interesting to see how well the team manages without Connelly's maverick vision -- a vision that certainly helped push the brand out of the swamp of retail and consumer apathy and declining sales into a more leveraged position as a brand which folks were beginning to notice and buy. Looking back at notes from interviews with both Connelly and George Brown last year, at a time when they both joined the Vasque team, it is clear that their vision was for a three-year turnaround process. They essentially got a year. Though no one at the company would confirm the figure, SNEWS® believes that estimating Vasque's current financial position at slightly more than $20 million annually in sales last year is not too far off (based on reliable outside sources), and that's probably not high enough for Redwing corporate folks. We do know that the brand is regaining favor with specialty retailers, but though sales are increasing, perhaps they're not rising as quickly as corporate wished. Too, there is little doubt in our mind that as successful as the Super Alpinista may be, mountaineering footwear is still a niche category with sales that aren't likely to turn any corporate exec's head. Most likely, Redwing decided that Vasque was becoming just a little too much of a satellite operation and felt it needed to exert significantly more fiscal control to improve efficiency -- therefore the move to close down Bozeman. Expect to see more light and fast footwear coming out of the Vasque design think tank -- and quickly. There is no doubt in our mind that Vasque is on its way to becoming a leading brand once again and its new product is worth a buy-in from retailers. However, it remains to be seen how hands-off Redwing will be now that Vasque is back in-house; if the work boot culture begins to creep into the mix once again, then the brand Vasque will suffer.