“Breathe Fresh Air” is the tagline adopted by Bergans as part of the Norwegian company's efforts to push its brand in international markets with a more focused range and marketing approach.
Bergans previously attempted to export the Norwegian concept of “Ekstrem Turglede,” encapsulating the joy of moving freely in the outdoors. Apart from translating a similar exhilaration, Breathe Fresh Air brings out the brand's focus on sustainability. The tagline is to be fully implemented for the second half of this year.
Under the strategy mapped out by Leif Holst-Liæker, its chief executive for just over two years, Bergans has adopted the concept of “circular services” as one of its three business areas, along with the sale of outdoor apparel and equipment and an expedition company acquired last year.
The circular services concept was displayed by Bergans at Ispo Munich, where a seamstress was putting together accessories from the fabrics and components of used jackets – such as a hood transformed into a pouch.
Bergans is testing the concept in its own stores, starting at its flagship in Oslo, where the brand began to sell second-hand and repaired products a few months ago. This business has come to represent more than 10 percent of the turnover in the store, with demand far outstripping supply. Before the holiday season, the store started selling re-designed products as well. Holst-Liæker says that the circular services business is intended to be profitable.
All these initiatives come after Bergans implemented far-reaching changes in its business structure last year, with the closure of its offices in the U.S., the U.K. and France, and the transformation of its joint venture in Russia into a distribution agreement.
Bergans reported sales of 753 million Norwegian kroner (€79.2m-$97.3m) in 2017, down from NOK 765 million the previous year. However, the more comparable figure for 2016 is NOK 740 million (€77.8m-$95.6m), excluding business that was discontinued. About 70 percent of the turnover in 2017 came from Norway, compared with 68 percent the previous year, but this was slightly distorted due to the opening of a flagship store in Oslo and a Norwegian outlet in late 2016. On a wholesale equivalent basis, the Norwegian share of the turnover was a little smaller.
Although the figures aren't yet audited, the company said the Ebitda margin was in the range of 6 percent and the Ebit margin at about 4.5 percent. This compares with zero Ebidta margin and a negative Ebit margin in 2016. Bergans is anticipating sales growth in the range of 3 percent to 5 percent in 2018, with a targeted Ebit margin of 6 percent to 8 percent.
The new leadership has re-engineered the company's business structure as well as its product range, focusing more on innovation and sustainability. The offering has been trimmed for international markets to focus on apparel for hiking, mountaineering and skiing. Hunting gear and footwear remain part of the range sold in Norway, where Bergans is market leader, but they will no longer be in focus in other markets. The brand has also injected a stronger focus on urban wear with more sustainable colors, making it easier to mix and match.
The brand is working more closely with key international partners such as Bergzeit, Bergfreunde and Globetrotter. It continues to cover the British market directly from its Norwegian head office and through an exclusive agreement with Tiso.
As part of such partnerships, Bergans will start to open shop-in-shops in retail stores outside the Norwegian market in the next months, at an intended pace of two to four per year. It already went ahead with such retail investments in Norway, leading to three shop-in-shop openings in 2017 and eight more planned for this year. The company will be testing other formats of brand stores in Norway as well – probably in shopping centers and much smaller than the flagship of 650 square meters in Oslo.
The new plans have been accompanied by some more appointments. Bart Meijers, who switched from Nike to become international sales manager at Bergans last year, was appointed as the Norwegian company's chief commercial officer last October. He supervises sales in all countries, reporting directly to Holst-Liæker.
Klas Vangen has been appointed as sales director for the Nordics and for distributors, starting in January. He was previously head of international sales at Viking Footwear, a Norwegian brand formerly headed by Holst-Liæker. While directly leading the brand's business in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, Vangen is supervising its sales to distributors in other markets.
Vangen's appointment comes after a slight adjustment in the structure of the commercial team, under which tasks previously covered by Jon Gregertsen have been split between him and Vangen. Gregertsen, who has been working with Bergans for six years as sales manager, has formally been appointed to the new function of strategic account director.
Matthias Leurs, who moved from The North Face to take charge of the German-speaking countries for Bergans last year, added responsibility for the Benelux countries in August. Under the previous commercial structure, the Benelux sales team was reporting to Meijers. Now Vangen, Leurs and Gregertsen all report to Meijers.
Separately, Karl Henrik Felde became brand director at Bergans in December, taking over from Ronny Hammer. Felde was previously marketing manager for Viking and for the Berghaus brand in the Nordics, as part of Bertel O. Steen, and he joined Bergans in 2016 as international marketing manager. He reports directly to Holst-Liæker.