Garmont is acquiring full ownership of the distribution of its products in North America, where it had a joint venture with two industry veterans for this and other activities. Timed to coincide with the global launch of its new trail-running project, the move will give the Italian company more flexibility in pricing in the USA in view of the sharply reduced value of the U.S. dollar against the euro.

Based in Vermont, Garmont North America has been shared since 1996 between the Italian company, which had a 50 percent stake in the operation, and two American executives, John Schweizer and Bill Hill, who ran it. The U.S. company also has a Canadian sales office in Quebec and distributes two other brands, Bridgedale and 7tm, throughout North America.

On top of that, a year ago Garmont North America purchased Life-Link, a complementary American brand of back-country poles, probes, shovels and snow safety products. It is also distributed in Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Japan, Argentina and Chile, and it will continue to be operated from the USA, without venturing into other new markets for the moment.

Garmont has now acquired all the shares it did not own in Garmont North America and promoted two company officials to take the place of Schweizer and Hill. Gordon Bailey, who has been with the company for 12 years, most recently as vice president, becomes president of Garmont NA. Patrick O’Neill, who has been handling accounting for the last three years, will also act as chief financial officer.

Garmont became the full property of Achille Morlin in 2003, after the death of his former partner, Pietro Martinbianco. Schweizer and Hill, who describe themselves as ardent outdoor activists, have informed their clients about the change while adding that they plan to do a lot of hiking and canoeing in the summer before deciding what they will do next.

The reduced value of the U.S. dollar against the euro has had a certain impact on Garmont’s activities in snow sports in North America, but not on its business in outdoor shoes, which are made in China. However the company had some quality problems with Chinese manufacturers. Solving these problems and launching new models specially designed for the American market allowed Garmont to record a sales increase of 25 percent to $12 million in the USA last year.

The weakness of the dollar has led at least two other companies recently to take over their distribution in the USA. Another Italian outdoor footwear company, SCARPA, bought out its distribution in the USA in 2005 from Black Diamond. Béal of France very recently decided to part ways with Black Diamond as its U.S. distributor, eliminating intermediaries and focusing on key accounts with the logistic help of Pigeon Mountain Industries, its American joint venture partner in the development of ropes under the Dynamic brand name.

More in the next issue about Garmont's launch of its new line of trail-running shoes.