Mountain Hardwear, the high-end outdoor label of Columbia Sportswear, is expected to reach global sales of $97.2 million this year compared with $82.6 million in 2007. The brand’s most important European market continues to be the U.K., followed by Italy, France and Germany at pretty much the same level. According to Cyril Pliquet, European sales manager, the strong position of Mountain Hardwear in the U.K. comes from the the brand’s history and the way it set up its distribution in Europe before Columbia acquired it in 2004.
Mountain Hardwear reached Europe in 1998 and relied then on two distributors. Dieter Klett, the man who introduced The North Face to the Central European market, distributed Mountain Hardwear in the same region plus Italy. The U.K. distributor then took care of the British Isles plus Spain, France, Scandinavia and the Benelux countries.
Evolution of MHW’s global sales since 2003 (in US$, 2008 estimated, excluding the Montrail brand):
Since 2005, Mountain Hardwear has followed Columbia’s business model in Europe by having sales and marketing run from Geneva, customer service from near Strasbourg and warehousing in the French town of Cambrai. The European operations are directed by a lean management team of three people in charge of sales and marketing who, as of now, handle 13 percent of Mountain Hardwear’s global sales. The figures in the next chart concern Mountain Hardwear only, excluding Montrail, the group’s more athletic footwear brand, which is also run by Mountain Hardwear's management.
Breakdown of MHW’s global sales by regions:
Mountain Hardwear has not gone into direct retailing except in North America and South Korea. The first store opened at Columbia’s headquarters in Portland, Oregon, this spring. The great success in Korea is partially explained by the local partner’s retail ambitions. There are 20 mono-brand stores on the Asian peninsula. The only European retail operation so far is in Chamonix, France, where Columbia has its own store where the second floor is dedicated to its smaller core brand.
Breakdown of MHW’s global sales by product ranges:
The brand is working hard on improving its global distribution network. While it opened its own sales subsidiaries in Canada and Japan at the beginning of this year, Mountain Hardwear has announced major changes in local distribution in some European countries, effective with the next Spring season. France is now the only country in Europe where Mountain Hardwear has its own employee to cover a local market: Gregory Allali has been hired from Mammut’s French partner. For Spain, Mountain Hardwear now relies on the Altitud agency, which covers the entire Iberian Peninsula with brands like Garmont, Hagan, Diamir and Singing Rock. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it works with Prague-based Rock Point, which is both an important retailer with 20-odd stores as well as a local wholesaler in charge also of Lowe Alpine and Keen. The local company will be MHW’s distributor in the two countries. As of Spring 2009, it will be pretty much the same situation in Poland where Alp Sport has taken over as both wholesaler and distributor. Alp Sport is also the local partner of Lowa. In Germany, the Fuchs brothers, who are also in charge of Keen and X-Technology, now have the distribution of the brand in their hands. The Fuchs people helped introduce Odlo to the German market.
Productwise, Mountain Hardwear has announced that it is switching from W.L. Gore to OutDry for its gloves. It will stick to Gore-Tex as a supplier for all other relevant product ranges.