New leadership at Backcountry

Melanie Cox and Sarah Crockett assume the helm at the online retailer
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Backcountry announced leadership changes today. Melanie Cox will serve as CEO, replacing Jonathan Nielsen, and Sarah Crockett will serve in the newly created role of chief marketing officer.

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Aside from her extensive retail experience, Melanie Cox founded MBC Consulting, where she advised private equity and corporate clients on retail industry trends, identifying opportunities in the market, risk assessment and strategic direction.

Cox comes to Backcountry from fast fashion brand rue21 where she was interim CEO. Cox has 25 years of executive-level experience in retail ranging from fashion to beauty to toys. “Backcountry was founded on the notion that by providing people with the best gear and expertise, it can connect people with the outdoors, and I see great potential for the brand by focusing on this opportunity,” said Cox in a press release. She also says that Backcountry will capitalize on a growing interest in outdoor experiences and the tailwinds behind the e-commerce space, presumably referring to the the recent coronavirus pandemic and some of its ripple effects.

[Cox] “has an impressive track record of developing brands in many stages of their life cycles across different industries, and we firmly believe that under her leadership Backcountry will be best positioned for the long-term,” said Blyth Jack managing director of TSG Consumer Partners, Backcountry’s financial and strategic partner.

Sarah Crockett will assume the role of chief marketing officer

While Cox came to her role from outside the outdoor industry, Crockett comes from within. Most recently she served as CMO at Burton Snowboards and before that she held senior marketing roles at REI and Vans (part of the VF Corp. family). Crockett will be responsible for the growth and evolution of the brand by leading sales and marketing initiatives to ensure effective sales management, customer engagement, new business partnerships and product development.

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Sarah Crockett will lead marketing efforts for Backcountry and its portfolio of brands, including Competitive Cyclist, Motosport.com and Steep & Cheap. 

“I'm elated to join the team at Backcountry and make the move to Park City with my family,” says Sarah Crockett. “Backcountry is a brand that stands for something bigger than the products it sells, and I am excited to fully unlock the unique value that it can offer to the modern outdoor segment,” Crockett said in a statement.

Ripe for a leadership change

Backcountry came under widespread fire in November 2019 for filing petitions to cancel trademarks for at a number of small businesses that shared the word “backcountry” in their name, like American Backcountry, Backcountry Babes, and Backcountry Denim Co. Many felt that this amounted to bullying, and a boycott movement resulted. Jonathan Nielsen, then CEO, broke his silence over the matter in this exclusive interview with SNEWS. Shortly thereafter Nielsen received an online threat that caused police to temporarily relocate him and his family. He eventually issued a public apology and began reaching out to brands affected.

But many believed it was not enough and that the response came too late.

"We firmly believe that under [Cox's] leadership Backcountry will be best positioned for the long-term," TSG's Jack said in a statement. "We want to thank the previous CEO, Jonathan Nielsen, for his significant contributions and look forward to continuing a great partnership with the entire Backcountry team.”

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