After adjustments to its European organization that strongly pushed up sales and profits last year, Icebreaker continues to tweak its distribution, with four more changes implemented or coming up in European markets.
The rejigging of the European structure started after the arrival of Peter Ottervanger as general manager two years ago, with the centralization of more functions at the European head office in Starnberg, Germany. The focus of the country organizations has shifted further to sales, while the Starnberg office provides central finance, operations and marketing. The second wave of changes takes this shift further by turning distribution partnerships into agency agreements.
This applies to Bradshaw Taylor, the big British distributor that sells Icebreaker in the U.K., Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Greenland. Icebreaker and this very influential partner have actually agreed what the New Zealand group described as an optimized agency structure, with a level of customer service remaining in England.
The second switch applies to the Benelux countries, where Icebreaker has long been working with Ideavelop. Along the way, the Dutch company obtained rights to sell Icebreaker in Austria. Under the altered arrangement, starting from the spring 2017, the distribution agreement has turned to an agency in the Benelux countries, and sales in Austria have been integrated into Icebreaker's German subsidiary.
Then there is the Czech Republic, where Icebreaker built up its business with an office in Prague. A few months ago, Icebreaker switched to an agency, Outdoor Brothers. It was established in September by David Chovanec and Vlasta Pazourková, both former account managers for Icebreaker in Eastern Europe. Their rights to sell Icebreaker cover the Czech Republic, Slovakia and seven other countries in Eastern Europe (not including Poland).
Another major change is that Ibrahim Can, head of sales for central and Eastern Europe, is leaving the company from the start of September. He is switching to Mammut, where he will be in charge of global sales and market development, reporting to Stefan Merkt, the group's chief sales officer. Icebreaker is thus searching for another regional manager for the German-speaking countries, which make up a large chunk of its European turnover.
Meanwhile, Icebreaker has continued to work on a positioning that combines functional apparel with a trendy appearance. Among the latest products that enable the brand to widen its range is a windbreaker that combines a merino inner layer with a water resistant outer layer.