WaterMark has announced that the company will be discontinuing the production of Yakima branded snowshoes and exiting the category the company entered just over three years ago. The decision is effective immediately.
"Snowshoes were the first effort at extending the Yakima brand," Jim Clark, president of Watermark, told SNEWSÂ® "Back in 2000, it was a different world."
In 2000, notes from our interviews with Yakima executives revealed that the company thought it had a legitimate shot at garnering a chunk of the blossoming snowshoe market. Expanding into snowshoes appeared to be a no-brainer for the company since many of Yakima's reps also sold into the winter sports market, the production time for snowshoes matched with a downtime for rack production, and the company would easily be able to be innovative in the market since it knew metals and plastics -- both
key components in snowshoe development.
Several folks inside the company confided to us back in 2000 that Yakima honestly expected to be able to take a chunk of business away from the Tubbs/Atlas 80 percent market share.
Clark, who was not running the company at the time Yakima decided to enter the snowshoe market, acknowledged that things did not go quite as planned.
"At the end of the day we want to be the No. 1 or No. 2 company, a leading player in any category we are playing in," added Clark. "We gave the Yakima snowshoe brand three solid seasons and for a variety of reasons we could not accomplish the business objectives we set for ourselves."
Insiders tell us that there were a number of reasons for this. One, it wasn't nearly as easy as the company had hoped to produce a product line made of plastic and metal parts -- despite the fact the company was obviously very adept at working with metal and plastic in the rack business. Despite a ballyhooed roll-out in 2000, Yakima was still trying to work through glitches in design and production as late as 2001. By then, it was too late.
Clark told us that less than 50 retailers "of any significance" would be affected by the company's decision to exit the snowshoe business. And, since the business had become so insignificant to Watermark's bottom line, no employees are being affected either.
"This was a business decision, pure and simple," Clark told SNEWSÂ® "It's a shame too, because the product was first rate,
but market trends have changed and it was time."
SNEWSÂ®View: You could see the writing on the wall as early as Winter Market 2004. No new product introduction and very few folks talking snowshoes from the company either. K2's acquisition of Tubbs and Atlas more than likely sealed the deal, speeding up the inevitable. Instead of grabbing a chunk of the 80 percent market share the Tubbs/Atlas team still owns, Yakima was faced with the reality that as of 2004, MSR was out-designing it and outselling it in plastic snowshoes, and Tubbs and Atlas were outselling and outperforming it in metal snowshoes. In fact, rather than competing for a No. 1 or No. 2 slot as the
company desires, Yakima was really battling it out simply for a top five position -- not a pretty picture to investors. Perhaps more important, with K2 now the proud parent of Atlas and Tubbs, Yakima realized it was going to be entering into a price competition the company was not set up to compete in -- certainly not in snowshoes. Wise move, albeit a sad one, to exit the category now. And even more appropriate to do it now and give those few retailers carrying Yakima snowshoes an opportunity to fill the void.