Black Diamond Equipment and Scarpa, two brands that have practically been interchangeable over the past two decades, have terminated their longtime working relationship. The decision will be effective at the end of 2005. Scarpa will begin anew in the U.S. market with a newly formed North American subsidiary, headed by Andrea Parisotto, the new president of SCARPA North America, Inc.
The B.O.S.S. Report spoke with Black Diamonds CEO, Peter Metcalf, who said that the decision had less to do with rising prices of Italian-imported goods than it did with fundamental differences in goals for the two brands. He also stated that Scarpa approached them with several different alternatives, including a joint venture to form a separate subsidiary, but this path of separation seemed to satisfy the requirements of both brands best.
Chris Clark has been chosen as sales and marketing manager for SCARPA NA. Clark has extensive experience, including retail work at Neptune Mountaineering and field and consulting experience with Black Diamond and Backcountry Access. Clark will be the North American presence for the brand, while Mr. Parisotto will handle bigger picture issues and act as the liaison between the Italian parent company and the North American subsidiary.
BOSS caught up with Parisotto and Clark at the OutDoor Show in Friedrichshafen, Germany. Clark said that, for the most part, the product lines will be the same, but under this new management there will be greater emphasis placed on the hiking, mountaineering, and trail running categories. The company will still specialize in rock shoes and ski boots, but both the Italian management and the new North American management hope that they can effectively leverage their authenticity in climbing and skiing to address the broader, and more lucrative, hiking market.
Clark was also quick to emphasize the support that is being offered by Black Diamond. “Basically if I need anything at all to make this transition run more smoothly, I pick up the phone, call Black Diamond, and it is done right away,” he said. “They really want to make this work, not only for Scarpa, but also for the retailers.”
This decision effectively separates the two brands entirely. Since the majority of Black Diamond sales reps are internal BD employees, they will no longer carry the Scarpa brand. This decision, however, does not remove BD from the footwear category. Metcalf said that at the very least, the company will be back in the footwear game with ski boots in the near future.
Clark told BOSS that the majority of the North American territories are covered, and he plans to have all positions filled by the time OR Summer Market rolls around. “Its been a big job, but we have realistic goals. Ive been at this since July 6th, and my goal was to have a sales force in place by the time I go to OR and it looks like everything is on track,” he said.
In related news, Black Diamond also effectively discontinued its Franklin brand of bouldering gear. At OR Winter Market BOSS spoke with Peter Metcalf, who said that BD will change its slant on the youth market. BD used the Franklin brand to address the youth market, but Metcalf felt that this move is “dating” the Black Diamond brand and giving it an older feel. This was the primary motivation behind re-branding the line as Black Diamond Bouldering. To lead this effort, Black Diamond Bouldering has hired Switzerland-based Mike Tscharner and Tomas Hodel, both well known boulders and designers, to drive development of future bouldering products.
Chris Grover, Black Diamond national sales manager, is enthusiastic about the shift. “Bouldering is a central discipline in the climbing world, and Black Diamond is and always has been about all climbing disciplines,” he said in a release.