Vaude, a German company, is ending its U.S. distribution relationship with Vaude Sports operated by Guntrum and Sam Jordan, and turning to Windsong Allegiance Group LLC. Read Worth, formerly president of RLX Polo, has been named president of Vaude USA, the newly-formed division of Windsong.
Vaude USA will begin exclusive distribution of the entire Vaude line of products on June 15 to both the United States and Mexico. Worth told SNEWS that the company will announce sales representation at that time and will be taking sample deliveries at that time.
Why Vaude of Germany is jumping distribution ships was answered by Guntrum Jordan who told SNEWS that he has been in negotiations with Vaude for over a year about the future of the business. Once Jan Lorch, export manager for the company, came on board, it became clear to Jordan that the two would have to part ways.
“Vaude is huge in Europe and they began looking closely at our niche approach in the largest market in the world and wondered why we were not much bigger,” said Jordan. “They also wanted us to take on apparel, which is nearly 50 percent of their business in Europe, and I didn’t see that vision. I couldn’t see trying to add more $400 jackets to a market that is already very crowded.”
Jordan had been doing well with packs, sleeping bags and tents, and growing the Markill stove and water bottle line, but clearly, the German parent wanted more.
Under the new distribution agreement, Worth told SNEWS that Vaude USA will be offering the full line of products to the United States and Mexico, including Ecolog recycled clothing, Lucky climbing equipment, Markill stoves and lanterns, Vaude packs, tents and sleeping bags, Vaude apparel, Vaude cycling equipment, and new this year, Vaude footwear.
SNEWS View: Guntrum and Sam Jordan have handled this entire process with class and dignity, even to the point of repeatedly wishing Vaude and Read well during our interview. No word yet on what the couple will be doing next, but we wouldn’t be surprised if they put their sales skills together as a rep team. Why the change? No doubt the parent company felt that if it was doing $81 million USD in sales worldwide, and $25 million of that came from foreign sales in just under 30 countries, the United States was dramatically underperforming at $1.5 to $2 million or just under 6 percent of the foreign sales share. And perhaps it has a point. However we caution Vaude — many other European companies have looked hungrily at the U.S. market expecting to gobble up huge shares of the potential sales only to be sadly disappointed over and over again. Certainly it has the financial backing now with Windsong as the company’s distributor. Windsong owns brands such as Hathaway, Joe Boxer, Pivot Rules and Navy Cutter and licenses others. It has a huge distribution network, high-tech warehousing and distribution facilities, production and sourcing teams, as well as marketing and design skills to support its efforts. Add Read Worth to the mix and you have talent and vision to help grow the brand. Still, Vaude must realize that it is entering a very crowded market by tossing the company’s hat into the apparel arena. If that weren’t difficult enough, going after a share of footwear dollars in the only market that is perhaps more crowded than apparel will be tenuous at best. If it can hit price points and keep retailer margins strong, it stands a chance of gradually — emphasis on long-term commitment — increasing its market share, especially in Mexico. But if Vaude has illusions of quickly grabbing a $10 million share of the U.S. market with little or no effort simply because it changed distributors, we’d advise them to wake up and drink some Italian coffee — quickly.