The Oberalp Group is building up its business in Asia, with licensing and distribution deals signed or in advanced discussions in China, South Korea and Taiwan, and with distinct approaches for the Salewa and Dynafit brands.
The Italian group already invested in Japan when it established its own business in September last year. Junji Iizuka from Auctus Distribution, the company that built up Dynafit's sales in Japan from 2001, became the brand director for the backcountry skiing and mountain athletics brand. The brand director for Salewa, who joined in October, was previously a director at Fullmarks, a distribution company that sells several outdoor and winter sports brands in Japan.
For the coming years the Oberalp group predicts strong expansion in South Korea, where it sealed a licensing and distribution agreement for Salewa with K2. The group also announced a few days ago that K2 will take up the distribution in Korea of Dynafit as well, for a ten-year period starting in 2017.
K2 is a family-owned Korean company that is a major player in the national outdoor and winter sports market, but is not related to the American winter sports equipment brand by the same name. It sells its own K2 line outdoor and winter sport clothing along with the Wide Angle golf brand and Eider, the French mountain sports brand, for which it owns the rights in South Korea.
K2 operates with a network of about 650 franchisees, who run stores for one or more of the company's brands. Dynafit and Salewa are to be sold in separate stores. Salewa should be marketed as a more technical outdoor brand than K2 or Eider, with its range adjusted for Korean consumers, but keeping a European influence.
Salewa had been distributed in Korea for many years by May Day, which owned a handful of Salewa shops and supervised more than 50 franchised stores. As the pressure increased in the Korean outdoor market, the two companies agreed last year to end the partnership and prepare for K2 to take over from the start of 2016. The Salewa stores owned by May Day will not be taken over by K2.
Meanwhile, Oberalp is adjusting its strategy in China, where it is holding discussions with licensing partners for the Salewa and Dynafit brands. Nearly three years ago Salewa set up a joint venture with its former Chinese distributor and licensee, Inspiration Outdoor Trading. However, as indicated in the Compass earlier this year, the Italian company has decided to switch back to a licensing agreement. This has entailed the closure of the company's own stores in China, which is almost finalized, and Salewa has been supporting the franchisees to make sure the market is clean when the new partner takes over. Its identity is to be disclosed at Ispo Beijing in February.
Separately, Oberalp has inked another distribution deal in Taiwan, which started in September. Its partner there is Pro Craft, a company that was established for the purpose of distributing Salewa but is related to a larger outdoor distribution company.
Dynafit's moves into these Asian markets are strongly supported by the launch of its apparel range three years ago. It enabled the brand to focus on mountain athletics in the summer and to build up sales amounting to an estimated 20 percent of its turnover this year.
The Oberalp group's Asian expansion has been driven in the last years by Florian Miguet, general manager for the Asia-Pacific region. However, the Frenchman left the company at the start of this month to launch another venture and he may not be replaced in the same function since Oberalp is apparently preparing to rearrange its international management.
As reported in our last issue, Claes Broqvist, who has resigned after six years as sales director of Odlo Sportswear, is moving from Switzerland to Italy next January to fill a new position at Oberalp as regional general manager in charge of North America, Asia, the U.K. and all other export countries. Before joining Odlo in 2009, Broqvist worked for seven years as sales and marketing director of Haglöfs. He previously worked at Nike for 12 years, acting as apparel sales director for the emerging markets.