Salewa North America GM Previews Apparel, Equipment Coming Stateside
By David Clucas
Perhaps you know Salewa as that niche outdoor European footwear brand making gains here in the United States. But truth be told, the brand and its larger Italian parent entity Oberalp Group S.P.A., which also owns Dynafit, Wild Country and Pomoca, is comparable to The North Face in Europe. And there’s a lot more to Salewa, including apparel and equipment, that has yet to come across the pond.
All that will change in 2017 as the company’s new North America GM, Brian Mecham, leads the brand’s category expansion in the United States. Quite the task for only four months on the job.
Mecham, who previously worked with Patagonia, Icebreaker and Black Diamond, and now calls Boulder, CO home at Salewa, paid us a visit at our SGB corporate headquarters here in Louisville, CO this week with a preview of what’s to come.
SGB: Salewa’s footwear has been in the North American market for five years and, from our sense, has done well. Why has it taken so long for apparel and equipment to come stateside?
BM: I think there’s a long history of European brands coming to the U.S. and struggling with differences in demands for styles, cuts and colors. With footwear, it was the newest division at Salewa, and it presented a more unique product with real innovations. It represented the brand’s maturity into a global brand. Apparel, which had been around for some time, is a bit trickier to deliver innovation year-over-year, and it’s an extremely competitive business. But, we see an opportunity now with more U.S. specialty retailers looking for ways to distinguish themselves from the big-box stores.
SGB: What’s the rollout schedule for the new categories here?
BM: For spring 2017, we’re bringing in tents, sleeping bags, packs and climbing gear. And then in fall 2017, there will be a limited launch of apparel. It will a curated assortment of about 75 styles and colors. And we’ll partner with a selected group of retailers that we have long-standing relationships with through Salewa and Dynafit.
SGB: You’ve worked with big outdoor names in the past – Patagonia, Icebreaker and Black Diamond. What have you learned from those experiences to help you here?
BM: The biggest takeaway is to be very strategic in what the growth trajectory and profit trajectory look like. We want to be very sustainable and think long-term. That philosophy comes from the owner and these brands’ histories. [The orgins of Oberalp stretch back to 1846 and Salewa was founded in 1935.] That’s not to say we won’t be profitable, but we take a longer-term forecast.
SGB: The Dynafit brand has seen expansions of its own this year, targeting the spring/summer season in addition to winter. What was the strategy?
BM: What we’ve realized is the need to diversify that business due to the challenging winters. I think this is something important for the entire industry — retailer and brands — to look at the changing weather patterns and adapt. Our goal with Dynafit is to be the leading brand for mountain endurance. We’ve done that in winter with backcountry skiing. It’s the same customer with mountain and endurance trail running in the summer. It’s the same shift we’re seeing with winter mountain retailers in Europe — they’re finding success serving these athletes year-round.
Photos courtesy Salewa