Swix Sport is continuing to build up its multi-brand Scandinavian outdoor group. It is complementing the offering of its Lundhags and Ulvang brands with the acquisition of all the shares in Helsport, a leading Norwegian supplier of outdoor tents, sleeping bags and backpacks, from Stein Hellikesen at an undisclosed price.
The Norwegian group said that Helsport's takeover would turn Swix Sport into a complete supplier for outdoor customers, with plenty of upside for further growth. It fits with the group's strategy to build up a summer-oriented outdoor division to balance its winter sports business.
Swix Sport's sales moved up by 6 percent to a total of 971 million Norwegian kroner (€102.4m-$114.2m) in 2016. They include the Swix brand in the winter sports market, Toko ski wax and HardRocx cycling products. Swix' product range comprises poles for Nordic and alpine skiing as well as for trekking, apparel and other products. About 40 percent of the total turnover is derived from Ulvang and Lundhags, which jointly raised their turnover by 27 percent last year. The acquisitions of recent years have helped the group to more than double its turnover in the last nine years.
Helsport's turnover amounted to NOK 120 million (€12.7m-$14.1m) in 2016, which was an increase of about 17 percent compared with 2015 and a large upswing from NOK 77 million in 2014. Established in 1951, the company will remain under the leadership of Helliksen, as managing director of Helsport, and the new owner wants to build on the tent-maker's current infrastructure in Melhus, near Trondheim.
Swix Sport pointed to the outstanding complementarity of the brands in the outdoor market, as Ulvang focuses on apparel and Lundhags on apparel, footwear and backpacks.
The outdoor division has been led for the last five years by Bjørn Krekke, who said the company has no current plans to expand into more categories through acquisitions.
With about 75 percent of its sales coming from the Norwegian market, Helsport could benefit for its international development from the Swix group's subsidiaries in Sweden, Finland and Germany, where the tent-maker currently targets only a few retailers directly from its Norwegian office. The Swix group has sales organizations in the U.S. and Japanese markets as well, but the priority for Helsport's development should be on Europe.
Swix Sport could take advantage of the advance made by Helsport in digital marketing. The company owns and runs one of the most popular blogs targeted at outdoor women in Norway, Turjenter.no. The new owner also mentioned the tent-maker's interesting approach in in-store marketing, with touch screen displays used to advise customers on the most adequate products for them.
Helsport is profitable, and it has been expanding robustly in recent years, due to the growth of the outdoor equipment market in Scandinavia. It appears that Helliksen decided to sell the company, established by his father Arild, because he was nearing retirement age and there was insufficient interest among other family members.
Swix Sport has been led since early June by Tomas Holmestad, who took over as interim chief executive after the resignation of Ulf Bjerknes last month. The group's board said at the time that Bjerknes, who previously ran Rottefella for four-five years until the beginning of 2008, had been instrumental in building up the Swix group in the last nine years. Bjerknes himself stated that he was taking a break to pursue some of his personal interests.
Swix Sport went on to confirm Holmestad as the group's new chief executive earlier this month. He had been a member of the management team and director of the group's sport division since 2016. He continues to supervise this division while leading the company for the time being.
Holmestad was previously a management consultant at McKinsey, and in charge of strategy and business development at Statoil Fuel & Retail, which has since been renamed as Circle K. He went on to become the CEO of the Youth Olympic Games held in Lillehammer in 2016.
Swix Sport itself is owned at a majority by Ferd, a family-owned Norwegian investment group. The group's acquisitions started in 2004 with Ulvang and Bavac, although it was later decided to use Bavac mostly for promotional apparel. Toko was bought from the Mammut Sports Group in 2010, and Lundhags was added two years later. HardRocx joined the group in 2015.