Still without a distribution agreement with any suitable partner since May 2004, Vaude is now forging ahead on its own, beginning with operating its own booth at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market to "demonstrate we clearly intend to continue in this market," according to the company.
"Our intention is to return with strength to the U.S. as Vaude product has been sold in this country for 10 years," Jan Lorch, international sales manager for Vaude, told SNEWSÂ®. "The U.S. is a very important market for us, especially considering we are an internationally recognized brand, and the U.S. represents the biggest global outdoor market."
Since Vaude and Windsong mutually agreed to terminate their distribution agreement last year, Vaude has been trying diligently, but unsuccessfully, to find the right distribution partner, according to Lorch. That lack of success has left Lorch and company founder and CEO Albrecht von Dewitz now feeling that perhaps it is better if the company goes it alone. Â
"We have made the decision to establish a Vaude-owned subsidiary so that we can most effectively control all aspects of the business and to make it very clear to our retail partners that being in the U.S. is a serious part of our distribution strategy," said Lorch.
Lorch told us that at one point, the company had approximately 500 retailers in the U.S., split nearly equally between the outdoor and bike markets. Vaude expects that many of them, if not all, will once again carry Vaude product if they know that Vaude is serious about U.S. distribution and committed for the long term.
"Our retailers were very satisfied with our product, and their customers were also very satisfied and, we hear, continue to ask for it. Over here, we are perhaps best known for our backpacks and Markill brand stoves, so that is what we will begin with," said Lorch. "From there, we will seek to slowly increase the range of our products offered, according to what makes sense price-wise to include select garments and tents.
"We fully realize this is a long-term commitment to the market and are prepared to be patient with a solid three to five-year plan in place," added Lorch.
Vaude is expecting to work with input from the U.S. market and adapt product accordingly.
"We really are very prepared to make a North American collection in certain ways, much as we have before," said Lorch.
Even though Vaude is a German company with deep European roots, the current pricing travails a number of European companies are currently experiencing brought on by the weakness of the U.S. dollar will have little affect on Vaude product since it will be direct-shipped to the United States from Vaude's factories in the Far East.
All that is missing is a U.S.-based director to run the show for Vaude. Lorch informed us they are looking very seriously for the right candidate now and hope to be able to put him or her into place soon. Until Vaude fully establishes its U.S. subsidiary and places a director in charge though, its showing at Winter Market will be just that -- only show. To Vaude's credit, the folks there have told us they will not attempt to take orders and service them from Germany or even Canada because to do that would not be "providing service as we would expect for ourselves or want to offer our retailers," according to Lorch.
SNEWSÂ® View: As we have said before when writing about Vaude, if the company wants to make a name for itself in the United States, it will need to do so by putting its own shoulder behind the effort, as it now appears ready to do. Vaude was a USD $94 million (Euro 72 million) global brand last year and it is no slouch on the quality equipment scale. Vaude is a leading brand in central Europe, a growing brand in Eastern Europe, and doing well in both China (Vaude China) and in Canada (distributed by Sport Dynaco in Montreal). We would expect that with the right plan in place that promises retailers appropriate product, offered at the right price, and always on time, Vaude can and should become quite successful, and that will put a big smile on Albrecht's face.