The legendary backpack brand returns to England at last. The new owner is the Equip Outdoor Technologies group, which also markets the brands Rab and Podsacs (high-end crafted backpacks), as well as Integral Designs (tents, bivvies, tarps, shelters and accessories).
Equip, a privately held company owned by Matt Gowar, takes over from Asolo, the famous Italian footwear brand led by Luca Zanatta. Last year, as reported, Lowe Alpine shut down its apparel unit located in Italy and concentrated on backpacks. More or less simultaneously, Lowe Alpine called for a concordato preventivo, a financial settlement procedure under Italian law.
Lowe Alpine will move back to Kendal in Cumbria, where the international headquarters is going to be added to Lowe's U.K. sales operations and the product development team. The management is led by David Udberg, who also acts as president of the European Outdoor Group.
On top of this, Lowe Alpine will keep the subsidiaries in the U.K., the Netherlands and Germany that have been in charge of sales of both Asolo and Lowe Alpine. Asked whether there will be changes in handling the distribution of Asolo in the mentioned countries, Chris Harding, Equip's managing director, told this publication that no changes are expected during the next six months. He pointed out, however, that there is no plan for a joint distribution for Rab, Lowe Alpine and the other brands that will be sold separately in the future. Asolo will keep the distribution of Lowe for Italy and the U.S.
Harding made clear that the distribution policy will be different from one brand to the other. While Rab is positioned on the top of the top for core specialty retailers, Lowe's distribution is set to be by far wider in outdoor and sports shops.
In the meantime, the new partners have been busy spreading responsibilities: Harding has been appointed head of design for both Lowe and the other Equip brands. Udberg is now – in addition to his role as Lowe's chief of its U.K. operations – also the head of sales and marketing for the other Equip brands. The other managers of the Lowe Alpine staff remain unchanged, including Shona Taylor (finance), Martyn Hurn (product development) and Dave Suddes (U.K. sales).
Matt Gowar, the owner of the whole combination, will return to Britain after three busy years successfully setting up Equip's U.S. subsidiary in Boulder, Colorado. Equip's turnover in the fiscal year 2010-11 (ended Feb. 28) was around £13 million (€14.7m-$20.6m), compared with approximately £10 million (€11.3m-$15.8m) in the previous year.