In the fiscal year 2009, Mountain Hardwear, the higher-end label in the family of Columbia Sportswear’s brands, exceeded global sales of $100 million for the first time ever. To be precise, it reached a level of $100.5 million, or 5.8 percent more than in the previous year.

At Ispo, its European chief, Cyril Pliquet, could not give any precise figures for the European market because it is not Columbia’s philosophy as a stock-listed company to go into such details. He hinted, however, that the European operations had stronger growth than the global turnover.

The brand recently appointed a new sales agency in Sweden: Trygve Alm, a Swedish company that has a stunning portfolio of outdoor-related brands including Montrail, Mountain Hardwear’s sister brand for footwear, Ortovox, Leatherman, CamelBak, Diamir, Julbo, Powerbar, Kohla Tirol and Eagle Creek. According to Plicquet, the brand now covers basically all important European markets – with the exception of Austria where Mountain Hardwear is seeking a new agency after the former agent, Franz Hohensinn, stopped selling the brand in 2008. Since then, the Bavarian sales rep has taken care of Mountain Hardwear in Austria on an interim basis.

The brand is intensifying its grass-roots activities, especially to introduce its collection of specific snow wear, a segment in which Mountain Hardwear has not been very strong in Europe so far. From March through November, the brand will be looking for 10 candidates from 10 different European countries for its “Mountain Academy,” an event that will take place in various European countries.

The selection is going to take place in cooperation with a couple of major retailers such as Au Vieux Campeur in France and Rock Point in the Czech Republic. In addition, Mountain Hardwear is teaming up with La Grave, the French cable car network, along with selected ski-oriented special-interest magazines for a series of events called “Free the Ride.”

SALEWA REPORTS STRONG GROWTH; CREATES MAJOR HUB IN BOLZANO

The Salewa group increased its sales by some 13 percent to €153 million in 2009. According to Heiner Oberrauch, the group’s president, the projection for the current year is €165 million. These figures comprise the global sales of the Salewa, Dynafit and Silvretta brands as well as winter sports-related brands that the Oberalp group distributes in Italy, such as Löffler. The figure excludes other distribution activities in Italy like the ones for Speedo. Its young footwear division, led by Antonio Dus in Montebelluna, sold 70,000 pairs of outdoor footwear in 2009; the plan for this year is to market 100,000 pairs.

At Ispo, Oberrauch presented his latest project, the new headquarters of the group in Bolzano, Italy. The post-modern building is not only designed to be the company’s headquarters and distribution center, but also a must-go place for local people who can take advantage of bars, restaurants, kindergartens and so on. The new building is said to be eco-friendly, with solar panels on the rooftop that can supply up to 1,000 households in the region with electric power. The new building should be ready to move in by spring 2011.

An open question until now was whether Salewa would really centralize all its European logistics in Bolzano after closing its warehouse in Aschheim outside Munich, where the German operations of the group are located along with the international sales, marketing and R&D operations of Dynafit and Silvretta.

Few market observers could imagine that it would make sense to ship the merchandise, after clearing customs in Hamburg, across the Brenner pass to Italy and then to send it back to Germany, a market that is worth some €20 million for the Salewa brand alone.

Oberrauch explained that shipments to Hamburg have been reduced over the past few years and that the products coming from the Far East are now mainly imported through the Italian harbors of Trieste and Genoa, where customs clearing procedures have significantly improved.