Johnson Outdoors recently welcomed over 30 retailers from across the southeast to its fifth annual “Dealer School” in Stone Mountain, GA. This event was hosted by Johnson Outdoors rep agency, Duncan Lewis, which covers 32 states for the Watercraft and Marine Electronics Group. Johnson Outdoors has been using this event to not only show retailers the new products and marketing initiatives, but also to gain some early insight into the retail environment and to gauge retailers’ needs.  Getting them out of their shops in July is not easy.

This year, there have been several changes at Johnson Outdoors, which the manufacturer was quick to address at the start of the event in an effort to be as transparent as possible for its retailers. In May, JOUT reorganized the Watercraft division and the Marine Electronics Group into a single entity called the Watercraft and Marine Electronics Group. The move put Kelly Grindle in charge of the Group and long-time Watercraft veteran Scott Foristall in charge of the paddlesports business.

“Kelly is the person who turned the Marine Electronics Group into a $100 million business,” Forristall told The B.O.S.S. Report in an interview during the event. “He and his team work well together – they practically read each others thoughts. I've worked with this group before and they bring a lot to the table. It's completely results-oriented. There are no office politics; no jockeying for the promotion. It's all about building the business.”

In addition, Johnson Outdoors will consolidate all of its Watercraft manufacturing into its new distribution center in Old Town, ME in a move JOUT called “a necessity” in order to simplify the business, refocus on its core products, reduce costs and improve profit and growth. 

Dealers at the event told BOSS they were generally happy with this move since the consolidation will give them one factory, one warehouse and one customer service representative to deal with instead of multiple points of contact under the old model. 

Apart from the changes in leadership and the consolidation, Johnson Outdoors will focus on communicating with its dealers and provide total transparency. The paddlesports manufacturer has also made the decision to discontinue its Extrasport Tech Ware product and the Lendal paddle brand.  However, the company said that some of the Lendal technology may work its way into the Carlisle brand.

The company is also working on creating meaningful innovation in its product line with a higher level of visible technology.


“The marketing team has really challenged the product development team this year,” said Forristall. “The idea was to create product that tells a technology story without forcing the customer to look at the POP materials. We want them to look at a boat and know the benefits.”

This new focus helped create four new boats for the 2010 season. From Ocean Kayak, the Torque uses a battery-powered, hands-free integrated motor.


It uses Minn-Kota technology in the motor and Ocean Kayak's hull design to create a boat that will likely be most popular with the kayak fishing customer. Ocean Kayak also will introduce the Nalu paddleboard, which is actually more of a hybrid stand up/sit-down board/kayak. Also the Necky will introduce an entry-level rec kayak called the Rip and Old Town is launching the Dirigo XT with new Active Comfort System seat.