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After two and a half years with Timbuk2, Perry Klebahn has decided to step away as CEO to pursue one of his other passions — teaching. He’ll resign his post at the end of the month and CFO Tony Meneghetti will step in as interim CEO while the company’s board looks for a replacement.
“I’ve been through a great journey with the company. It was in a different place when I came here,” Klebahn told SNEWS®. “We have a terrific product pipeline, and terrific infrastructure and systems that have been built.”
Klebahn, who was founder of Atlas Snowshoes and served as executive vice president at Patagonia, will be serving on Timbuk2’s board, possibly for as long as a year.
“The board wants to see a lot of the basic building blocks, the foundations that have been put in place, continue to move forward and have some support for a new CEO as they bring him in. They’re going to take some time and make a smart choice on that over the next couple months,” he added.
Of his next step, Klebahn has been involved with the Institute of Design at Stanford University since 1996 as an adjunct professor and as a member of the faculty. He’ll now be working full time with students on emerging startups, where, he said, “it’s really innovative early stage product work” — and may eventually lead him back into a new startup foray in the future.
“Perry has helped set us up,” said Kevin McSpadden, chief marketing officer for Timbuk2. “Even in this economy at this time, we’re comping positive to last year. We have the operational and design resources in place and we have just finished six weeks of a seven week road show with our line.”
Of the road show, McSpadden told SNEWS that company executives and agency reps have been meeting with retailers in every major U.S. region, including Northern and Southern California, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, New York, Raleigh/Durham and Denver. It also plans to hit Salt Lake City and Austin, Texas.
“We have been talking directly with almost 80 percent of our total revenue (dealers), showing the line to them one on one,” he said, “and it’s been having an amazing response.”
A first for the company, the road show meetings allow Timbuk2 to meet with a variety of dealers — outdoor, bike, lifestyle and others like Urban Outfitters — who address its urbanite and college-age customers SNEWS was told. In addition to showing the spring 2010 line and getting feedback on product improvements, we were told the meetings have allowed the company time to also have conversations with dealers about how their business is doing in today’s tough economy and ways Timbuk2 can help them grow and build an effective sales strategy.
By sinking its resources into the road show, Timbuk2 will not be exhibiting at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, but SNEWS was told Timbuk2 would have a hotel room for two days during the expo to showcase a sampling of its line, handoff workbooks and have business conversations with its dealers.
“I think trade shows serve a very important role beyond sales, which is about being on the horizon of what’s going on with the industry, being able to build relationships and position the brand amongst others,” McSpadden said. “But in this economy, it does become a harsh reality of how much money you have to spend on marketing and sales versus making sure that you’re profitable and be able to invest in product development. That was what the trade off was about.”
Although all the orders aren’t in yet, he said, “I would say qualitatively (the road show) is looking really good for us, and will continue to be a part of our sales strategy.”
SNEWS® View: As it celebrates its 20th anniversary in business this year, Timbuk2 has had its share of rollercoaster rides over that time as its business has grown. While we were told this year’s sales are up, like a lot of other companies, it did layoff seven people in late January, early February. Consequently, it’s hired back slowly and conservatively, telling us it has added back two-thirds of those positions but with more emphasis around product development and operations.
Two areas of future growth for the company are direct sales and global expansion. SNEWS was told that direct is one part of the retail industry that is growing better than any other for Timbuk2 and it has been putting more resources in its direct channel, making sure its online partners, like Amazon, eBay and Zappos, have got the resources to sell its product and higher rate of sale. Internationally, it’s looking to leverage the spring 2010 line development into more penetration in key cities around the world, not just in the United States.
While we applaud Timbuk2’s road show meetings in one respect, there is one outcome we can’t agree with, and we’ve been very vocal about it in the fitness industry particularly — choosing to show product in a local hotel room during a trade show instead of exhibiting at that show. Companies that do this may claim they are not poaching, as Timbuk2 insisted it was not poaching with us — but if it walks like a pig, smells like a pig and oinks like a pig, it’s a pig. There is NO ducking the fact the ONLY reason a company takes a hotel room during the same time as a trade show is to capitalize on the fact the trade show and all those who are paying to exhibit are bringing in the very retailers companies like Timbuk2 hopes to meet with too – but without paying for exhibit space. So, those companies in the hotel room instead of on the exhibit hall floor aren’t investing in the show, but they are benefiting. In this economy, we know everyone is being creative in how they approach business and stretch budget dollars, but there is no justifying encouraging a retailer to have to walk out the door of a venue where hundreds of other exhibitors, big and small, are laying down their hard-earned cash to be on the floor. If the show was not important enough to your business to exhibit there, then why are you there in a hotel room during the show to meet with retailers at the show? Of course, retailers will vote as to whether they will accept this behavior by attending meetings in a hotel or not. We hope not. –SNEWS® Editors