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>> The SNEWS® team is issuing a Red Alert to all of our subscribers regarding a bogus email scam that attempts to lure you into downloading a harmful virus. A sample email that you might receive looks like it has come from us and appears as follows: “From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: E-mail technical support message. Dear user of e-mail server “Snewsnet.com”, We warn you about some attacks on your e-mail account. Your computer may contain viruses, in order to keep your computer and e-mail account safe, please, follow the instructions. For details see the attached file. Sincerely, The Snewsnet.com” Aside from the fact we can actually write and would never use such language as, “We warn you about…” the SNEWS® team would never, ever contact you with a support issue containing an attachment, nor would the email come from “email@example.com.” If you receive this type of email from us, or any other account you trust, DO NOT open the attachment! For your added protection, be sure your virus protections are fully up-to-date.
>> In a move predicted since it entered into bankruptcy proceedings last May, Spiegel Group is putting its Eddie Bauer division, which accounted for $1.3 billion of Spiegel’s $1.77 billion of sales in 2003, on the block. Industry analysts say the company has been preparing Eddie Bauer for a possible sale — by closing underperforming stores and streamlining the organization — while trying to negotiate a deal with its creditors, which include J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and a number of German banks. Since Spiegel failed to strike a deal with creditors to restructure the company, its financial advisers at Miller Buckfire Lewis Ying & Co. will solicit bids for Eddie Bauer, which includes 450 retail outlets and catalog and website businesses. Industry bankers say any auction for Eddie Bauer is likely to draw a crowd of potential buyers and could ultimately fetch $800 million. Predictions on potential buyers are Sears, Limited Brands, Talbots and various private equity funds. L.L. Bean expressed interest in the past but has since decided against it. Spiegel also said it has entered into an agreement with Pangea Holdings Ltd. to sell Newport News, its women’s wear catalog business, for $25 million in cash and the assumption of certain liabilities.
>> With a handshake at the top of Sherwin Bowl, near Mammoth Mountain, Calif., Couloir Publications Publisher Craig Dostie has finally assembled his editorial off-piste “dream team” with the addition of Brian Litz as senior editor of Couloir magazine. Litz is the former editor and co-founder of Backcountry Magazine and the author of “Colorado: Hut to Hut: a Guide to Skiing,” “Biking Colorado’s Backcountry” and “Skiing Colorado’s Backcountry” with Kurt Lankford. Litz will take the reins of Couloir’s world famous ski test among other projects, and author a new column to be unveiled in the first fall issue of Couloir Magazine. In other news, Couloir Publications announced it will publish its summer newsletter again for current Couloir and Telemark subscribers, and will maintain its publishing schedule of two Telemark Skier and four Couloir Backcountry Adventure magazines.
>> At SNEWS®, we make sure we aren’t just watching, but that we’re on the front lines. We took it seriously this year, too, jumping in to the Way Too Cool 50K trail race on March 13, the opener of the Montrail Ultra Cup series, as well as the American River 50 mile (the 25th anniversary trail race) on April 3, both sponsored by Montrail and Patagonia as well as supplied with Gu energy gels and sports drink and two of a series of three on some of the same Northern California trails where the grand-daddy Western States 100 is held. But we digress: Some notes from the field. And trails. And aid stations. And hills…. In the last three years of participating in Way Too Cool, we still notice a lot of plain ol’ road running shoes out there, but we have also begun to notice a growing number of Montrails. Why? We think because Montrail has made a commitment to set up a small tent at the finish line and staff it so runners can talk to someone who knows about the shoes, plus the company has made a commitment to trail running. It makes a difference. Patagonia for the first time also put up a tent at the finish of Way Too Cool – after SNEWS harassed sponsors for simply giving out product, some money, getting their name on a shirt and calling it a day. That is a waste. Companies will earn more from the investment if they take the chance to also educate participants. Gu gels and drink are all over the course at the aid stations, but it has yet to set up a table to discuss the benefits of its drink and gels. We think that’s a failing. During the races (yes, we are still coherent during 30 and 50 miles!), we also found that Ultimate Direction still dominates the waist pack and hand-carry bottle category. And what a domination. During the American River 50 we also noted a number of women toting the women-specific Ultimate product to carry a bottle or two and a gel bottle. Impressive since those products haven’t been on the market that long. What hydration packs we saw were mostly CamelBak, but only a smattering of ultra-runners wear full hydration packs during races, mostly because they don’t need to carry that much weight with all the aid stations. But CamelBak still the reservoir much more highly dialed than Ultimate, based on observations. For example, we came across one racer during AR50 at about, oh, mile 38, with one of the newer Ultimate packs, the Wasp, but we noted he had a CamelBak bladder in it. Still being talkative and of course always working, we asked him about it. Now, we can’t really quote what he called the Ultimate reservoir, but it wasn’t flattering or very printable. He did however love the Ultimate pack. And we survived 50 miles to tell you about it.
>> Timberland is ramping up for Earth Day, planning community service projects in 15 countries on April 22. Close to 3,300 Timberland employees, business partners and consumers are volunteering their time and energy to projects and will generate more than 20,000 hours of service in just one day, benefiting 100 communities worldwide. Some of Timberland’s Earth Day service projects include: trail building, litter removal, pruning and clearing at a 180-acre state-run wildlife sanctuary and education center in Portsmouth, N.H.; landscaping and trail building in Pelham Bay Park, the second largest park in New York City; cleaning and removing litter along Thames River banks in London; and removal of ghost nets left in the sea by fishermen in Hong Kong. To encourage students to become more active in their environment and communities, Timberland has launched its Adopt-a-School Program in the United States, giving 30 schools $500 for Earth Day project supplies and will nominate a local environmental agency to receive a $1,000 Timberland grant. Timberland also offers consumers the opportunity to participate in local community projects throughout the year through www.timberlandserve.com, which has a database of nearly 30,000 nationwide volunteer opportunities.
>> Confirming the success of the first joint trade show in February of this year, the Eastern Outdoor Reps Association (EORA) and the Southeastern Winter Reps Association (SWRA) have announced they will once again host a joint show in 2005, Feb. 12-15. The show will continue at the Palmetto Expo Center in Greenville, S.C., but this time within the largest hall offering 120,000 square feet of showroom space. The 2004 EORA/SWRA show was held in 98,000 square feet of space, housing 350 booths representing over 650 lines. 675 retail buyers attended from 303 stores. EORA told us the 2004 show was its most successful one ever, with attendance records broken from both the shop buyer as well as the retail staff attendance numbers. Mike Burns of Zamberland told SNEWS® that the show was “THE vehicle to sell product in the eastern U.S.” Geoff O’Keefe of Lowe Alpine added, “When I was planning to come, my rep told me to bring lots of pens. This has been a great show for us…lots of paper gets dropped here!”
>> GERMANY — K2 Europe is reorganizing: the ski and snowboard division will now be treated as one business unit and will be directed by Peter Kuba, who had been the director of the ski division, and Juergen Schuette, a former director of the snowboard division, will now head up the skate division, which is also moving its headquarters to Penzberg from Hassloch. Fritz Halbgewachs, who has lead skate but has declined to move after spending the last 11 years building the division, will consult with K2 during the transition. Ride snowboard will become a separate business unit with a director to be named since its current director Bernd Wagner is leaving the company. K2 and Jette Joop footwear will remain as a business unit under the direction of Rainer Zink. Each business unit will have its own marketing arm.
>> 180s ranked No. 1 on the ICIC-Inc. Magazine Inner City 100 list, an annual ranking of the fastest growing inner-city private companies in America. The Inner City 100, which ranks privately held companies located in inner cities according to sales growth over the past five years, is compiled by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC), a non-profit business research company and Inc. Magazine. Inner City 100 companies were selected from a pool of 7,000 companies nominated from 155 cities. 180s reported more than a 9,000 percent growth since 1998, posting sales of $340,000 in 1998 to $32.6 million in 2002 to $47 million in 2003. To be eligible for the list, companies had to have at least 51 percent of operations located in economically distressed urban areas and have had at least $150,000 in sales in the base year of 1998, and their 2002 sales had to exceed $1 million. Inc. Magazine verifies all information using tax forms and financial statements and by conducting interviews with company officials. The Inc. Magazine Inner City 100 Special Issue will appear on newsstands April 20. 180s and the other Inner City 100 companies will be honored April 12-13 at the Inner City 100 Summit in Boston, a two-day event that includes seminars, presentations and an award dinner.
>> REI set about finding out what women really want in a telephone survey conducted in February. The answers confirmed what the SNEWS® team has been talking about for years: a majority of women who enjoy the outdoors want gender-specific gear. Thirty-six percent believe gear designed specifically for them can enhance their performance, with 14 percent saying that gender-specific gear would likely increase their frequency of doing an outdoor activity. Even though 90 percent of both men and women polled were aware that bicycle designs are gender-specific, a much lower number knew about gender-specific designs for sleeping bags, hydration packs and other outdoor equipment. And, men seem to be more aware that gender-specific gear exists — 33 percent knew about sleeping pads for women, but only 27 percent of women knew of them. Fifty-six percent of men describe themselves as “very confident” when making outdoor gear purchases, while 44 percent of women feel this way. The survey also found that 49 percent of the women reported they have tried yoga within the last two years and are likely to try yoga again within the next 12 months, and 70 percent see yoga as a way to improve performance in other activities. The nationwide telephone survey was conducted by Western WATS Market Research on behalf of REI and included 832 American adults, 18 years of age or older, including 500 women, who participated in outdoor activities at least four times in the last year. The margin of error is +/-3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
>> The North Face gave the SNEWS® headquarters a call to let us know it’s about to put a “coming soon” sign in the window of a Boston storefront. Opening this summer, the store will be located at 326 Newbury St., a popular eight block shopping area described as Boston’s “Rodeo Drive.” Following the same technical meets authenticity concept of other stores in New York and Los Angeles, the 3,000-plus-square-foot store will be among popular retailers like Virgin Megastore, Diesel, Puma and Skechers.
>> Ex Officio scores a mention of the company’s line of Buzz Off clothing in the May 2004 issue of Good Housekeeping. No, it isn’t an official Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval, but it is darn close. The testers found the clothing to be as comfortable and as breathable as non-treated outdoor clothing and recommend it as ideal wear for repelling biting insects. Retailers might want to find a copy, cut out the page and laminate it as a POP.
>> The sale of DuPont’s Invista fibers division to Koch Industries is closing sooner than expected with a knocked-down price. The two companies have agreed to adjust the sale price down from $4.4 billion to $4.2 billion, which includes the assumption of debt and certain joint venture and equity interests. The sale will close on April 30 rather than June 30. A spokesperson for Koch said the reduced price and new closing date were unrelated. The companies have already received approval from antitrust review bodies in the United States and European Union for the merger. Koch plans to merge Invista with its KoSa polyester fibers unit after the deal closes. According to industry analysts, together the two operations had $8.4 billion in revenues last year, an amount that would make the combined business the world’s largest fiber enterprise. Invista’s apparel operations are to remain in the general Wilmington area after the deal closes, though executives said they may move to nearby locations in southern New Jersey or eastern Pennsylvania. Bill Ghitis is to continue as president of Invista apparel fibers.
>> Jennifer Mull, president/CEO of Backwoods, said the outdoor specialty retailer is relocating three of its eight stores and will celebrate their grand openings on May 1. The hammers are still pounding on the Omaha, Neb., and Wichita, Kan., locations, while the Kansas City store completed construction in January. The Wichita store is being molded into a flagship store for the chain, and among the traditional displays of apparel, footwear and gear will be conversation nooks, a beverage bar and a plasma TV running continuous adventure footage to inspire shoppers. In addition to expanded product lines, the Wichita location will have a fly-fishing department and adventure travel activities for all skill levels. “We are designing the store such that it will allow us to establish the Wichita location as a true flagship as we reinvent our brand in our other markets. It’s all designed to create a more interactive environment for an energetic customer base of all ages,” Mull said.
>> The Red Rock Rendezvous (RRR), a national climbing event presented by Mountain Gear and sponsored by The North Face, raised more than $12,000 for The Access Fund during its inaugural event in March. Over 400 people attended weekend festivities in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a short distance from Las Vegas, Nev. For more information on the 2004 Red Rock Rendezvous, or to access photos go to: www.mgear.com/rrr. Next year’s Red Rock Rendezvous is tentatively scheduled for March 18-20, once again in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Bluewater Ropes, Black Diamond, Rockclimbing.com, Five Ten, KPS3 Marketing, La Sportiva, Mammut, Metolius, Montrail, Mad Rock, New Belgium Brewery, Petzl and Rock & Ice magazine rounded out the 2004 sponsorship list.
>> Despite a loyal following among skiers, snowboarders, golfers and outdoor enthusiasts, Merkley Headgear went into receivership at the end of March when its bank called in its loan. In the hands of trustees, Deloitte & Touche, it’s looking for potential buyers of all the company assets or individual parcels and is taking proposals until April 23. According to sources, creditors are owed at least $7.8 million. Total assets are $4.7 million in inventory, accounts receivable, machinery and equipment with $3.1 million in unpaid bills. At one time, Merkley employed 200 people in offices in Toronto, Vail, Japan and Europe. It made its mark at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and was most recently used by the U.S. Olympic team in 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
>> West Marine Inc. (Nasdaq:WMAR), the nation’s largest specialty retailer of boating supplies and apparel, reported that net sales for the five weeks ended April 3, 2004, were $62.4 million, a 12.2 percent increase from net sales of $55.6 million for the five-week period a year ago. Comparable store net sales for March increased 6.9 percent compared to the same period a year ago. Sales from 62 Boat U.S. stores acquired in January 2003 from Boat America are included in comparable store sales statistics. Net sales for the 13 weeks ended April 3, 2004, were $129.2 million, an increase of 16.2 percent from net sales of $111.1 million for the same period a year ago. Comparable store net sales for the latest 13 weeks increased 10.2 percent compared to a year ago. For more information about this company or its financial reports, as well as to view stock prices updated every 15 minutes, visit the SNEWS® Stock Market Updates. Click on: www.outsidebusinessjournal.com/cgi-bin/snews/stock_report.html.