White Sierra seeking to build relevance to specialty retailers

White Sierra is on a mission to make its brand more meaningful and relevant to specialty retailers and, as part of its plan, hired Andy Howe away from Patagonia to the newly created position of vice president of business development.
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White Sierra is on a mission to make its brand more meaningful and relevant to specialty retailers and, as part of its plan, hired Andy Howe away from Patagonia to the newly created position of vice president of business development.

Among its efforts in the last three years to achieve its goals have been the creation of a new logo, updated website and new POP at retail, an ad campaign to differentiate the feel of the brand to the market and, most importantly, what the company says is greater attention to detail in product, development and design.

The rebranding work that White Sierra has done led to Howe's hiring. Previously the national accounts manager at Patagonia, Howe will be responsible for executing a strategic distribution plan and continuing to deliver a cohesive brand message at White Sierra. During his first month on the job, Howe told SNEWS he analyzed the business from all sides and really evaluated if the direction the brand had been going made sense.

"For me, looking at our current business, what we're good at and where we have momentum, it's reconfirmed for me that outdoor and sporting goods are the right places for us. I know it sounds really simple, but I think it was important to spend the time doing that evaluation and reconfirming that this is the direction for us," Howe said.

White Sierra has a manufacturing background -- a revenue resource that allows the company to invest more into trying to make itself a key apparel brand in the market.

"A lot of people know the White Sierra brand name, but they don't necessarily know what we do. I don't think that they're familiar with the effort we have put into design in the last few years. I don't think they're familiar with what we offer from a pricing and margin standpoint. I think both those things are really compelling," Howe said.

Distribution has been good on the West Coast, and in the Northeast and Southeast, but the company is focused on more presence in other regions. Howe is using a methodical approach to build the line and said he hopes to woo retailers with White Sierra's pricing structure and high margins.

"It's one thing to have great product, and we do. But it's also important to have great product coming to market with a pricing structure that retailers can make the type of margin they need to make. We're well positioned to give outdoor retailers what they need really badly which is a really high margin on the product that they sell. That's very much the role we can continue to play for outdoor retailers and it's a really compelling reason to do business with us," he said.

White Sierra has developed a list of retailers that it thinks are the right types of retailers for the brand and wants to show them that it has something solid to offer them. Howe learned from his time at Patagonia to work with retailers in a respectful way and find out what's important to their business, something he plans to continue at his new company.

"We're continuing to invest in our branding so that we're driving customers to retailers' stores. We're working on our distribution," he said. "We're not in all the right places right now. We're definitely in the phase of bringing on new customers. Outdoor brands are judged by the company they keep. We have some good company and we need more of it."

Howe is optimistic about the future and hints at major developments in the next 12-18 months.

"When I look at White Sierra, I have seen really great product that's under-distributed. It has a lot of potential. There is tremendous opportunity here that's untapped," Howe said. "The owner of the company wants to tap it, seize the potentials and thinks now is the right time to do that. And I agree. I especially think that outdoor retailers need a high margin branded solution, and White Sierra can really be that for them."

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