The Samsonite group is reinforcing the sales infrastructure for the Gregory brand by creating the position of European general manager. This will be taken up from the start of June by Lars Föll, in an internal move. Föll is marketing and sales director in Europe for Tumi, a more upmarket brand of backpacks and travel gear owned by Samsonite.
Based at Samsonite's European head office in Belgium, Föll reports directly to Arne Borrey, the group's European president. Taking up a new function in the Samsonite group, he will work together with Adrian Davison, brand manager for Gregory in Europe. The company says that Föll's key assignment is to support the Gregory brand's strong growth by increasing its exposure at retail level, and to step up communication.
At the same time, the Gregory brand is adjusting its sales team in Germany with the appointment of Marc Morell in the new position of sales manager for the country. Morell previously spent 13 years as regional sales manager for the Fjällräven brand, nearly all of them in Baden-Württemberg. He will report directly to Davison.
This comes after the Gregory brand already widened its distribution in Germany by adding two agencies. It has been sold by Sascha Rietzschel from Sport Handelsagentur Weindel in Baden-Württemberg since 2014 and by Florian Gschwendtner from M-Services in Bavaria since the start of this year. Since April it has added Stefan Kuhnert from the agency Höhenfieber in northern Germany and Thomas Seifert from Montana Trading in the eastern part of the country.
In reporting its financial results for the first quarter, Gregory's parent company, Samsonite International, said its global sales increased by 15.5 percent to $15.7 million in the first three months ended March 31, with growth of 11.3 percent in local currencies. Recovering from its previous weaknesses, High Sierra, another more lifestyle-oriented brand of backpacks owned by the group, reached sales of $15.5 million for the period, up by 10.1 percent in reported U.S. dollars and by 8.6 percent in constant currencies.
The Samsonite group's total sales went up by 15.5 percent in local currencies and by 21.1 percent in dollars during the quarter, building up to a total turnover of $888.2 million. The gross margin increased to 56.5 percent from 55.3 percent in the year-ago period. The reported operating income rose by 18.8 percent to $86.5 million. Adjusted net income increased by 15.6 percent to $50.1 million.
Ten days after the release of its quarterly report, Samsonite's shares fell sharply last Thursday and Friday, hitting a 14-month low, after the public company was accused of dubious accounting practices by a Texas-based short-seller, Blue Orca Capital. It alleged that Samsonite had concealed a slowdown in growth rates in connection with the debt-fueled acquisition of Tumi in 2016, downgrading the target price of its shares by 43 percent. Samsonite called the allegations “one-sided and misleading,” and said it will provide additional information “in due course, as appropriate.”