Alfa Sko is rebuilding its business in Sweden with the appointment of two former Haglöfs managers, with the target to multiply its sales ten-fold to about 50,000 pairs in the country in the next five years.
The Norwegian footwear brand was previously owned by Haglöfs and it lost most of its business in Sweden when the Swedish outdoor company decided to make footwear under its own brand. Alfa was then sold to Katalysator, a Norwegian investment company.
Alfa continued to work the Swedish market in recent years from its Norwegian head office, selling to specialist outdoor retailers such as Alewalds. However, it anticipates that Swedish sales will pick up speed after the appointment of Jonas Karlsson, who has been country manager for Sweden at Haglöfs for more than ten years. He was joined by Ola Henningsson, former key account manager for Haglöfs in Sweden, dealing with retailers such as Intersport, Team Sportia, Naturkompaniet and Outnorth. Henningsson started handling sales for Alfa in Sweden in April.
Alfa currently sells about 250,000 pairs per year, more than 90 percent of them in Norway. About 15 percent of the volume consists of professional footwear and 20 percent of cross-country skiing boots, although that share rises closer to 30 percent when the snow conditions are favorable in Norway. The remainder comes from outdoor footwear, which Alfa has entirely revamped in the last years.
Alfa's broader target is to reach sales of about 200 million Norwegian kroner (€21.3m-$24.9m) in 2020, which would be about twice the anticipated level for this year. The investments in Sweden this year could serve as a blueprint for moves into other countries, most probably Finland and the German-speaking countries. Finland is currently covered by Sweden while Norway handles the German-speaking countries.
The demand for Alfa is continuing to progress in Norway, on the back of the structural investments of the last years. Around the sale of Alfa to Katalysator, a unit selling cross-country footwear was spun off and licensed to its former manager, Pål Olimb. But the two entities were brought together again in 2011 under Olimb's leadership, paving the way for investments in the brand. Alfa then created an overarching and appealing brand identity, which hit the market in 2014. It invested to widen its target market to urban footwear, since it was already strongly established in the trekking boots category.
Among the latest investments in Norway is a partnership with Visit Norway, under which a student was appointed to travel around the country testing Alfa footwear. Predictably, in a country where outdoor activities are very popular, the application process alone created plenty of buzz. The student, Andreas Orset, received miles of media and online coverage while going about his carefully planned trips, particularly in the still buoyant local press in Norway – an interesting case study when he returns to business studies later this year.