Alfa, the Norwegian outdoor footwear company, is preparing to open offices in Sweden and Finland as it starts to explore foreign markets in earnest. This comes after the company has entirely overhauled its range and brand identity over the last three years to fit international demand.
Alfa's managers began to review the brand after two separate entities making Alfa cross-country ski boots and outdoor footwear were merged in 2011. However, the overhaul took much longer than anticipated as they decided to entirely revisit the brand identity and ranges.
While Alfa's appeal in Norway was based on robust outdoor footwear at equally robust prices, the current range comprises some lighter and more colorful footwear. It stemmed from an entirely new design approach, including the Go Explore tagline and a new logo that hit the stores in Norway last October.
Function remains central to the brand. Among the latest accolades, the lightweight and waterproof Lyng boot using Gore-Tex Surround technology received a Scandinavian Outdoor Award. Its new Alfa Air upper is said to be half the weight of leather and almost maintenance-free.
The management has been supported by Katalysator, the investment company that bought the Alfa outdoor range from Haglöfs in 2008 and retained a majority of the shares in the company when it was merged again with the cross-country ski entity three years later. Pål Olimb, the country's chief executive, who had purchased and turned around the cross-country ski boots entity, held a minority in the merged company.
Olimb said that the upgraded range had enabled Alfa to return to some of the most prominent Norwegian specialist stores. Owing to the cold weather from the middle of January, it has enjoyed plenty of re-orders and pre-orders for the next season are outstanding.
Alfa sold more than 150,000 pairs of ski boots and outdoor shoes in 2014, about 95 percent of them in Norway. The production previously included up to 40,000 pairs of boots for the Norwegian Army but these orders have been curtailed – or non-existent in some years.
The initial targets for international development are Sweden, Finland and the German-speaking countries. For this purpose, the company is considering opening of a warehouse in Sweden or Finland. It returned to the Scandinavian Outdoor Group as a development member last year and started searching for an export manager. Some other investments have been put on hold due to the unfavorable changes in the exchange rate of the Norwegian krone with the dollar.