Nitro’s been quiet lately-but on the move quite a bit. In January, the company changed its distribution in the United States from Hood River, Oregon- based Da Kine to a more direct channel handled through the same offices as the Norwalk, Connecticut-based footwear and ski boot manufacturer Dolomite. The move actually made a lot of sense for Nitro, especially after Nitro’s European owners sold 50 percent of the company to Italy-based Dolomite more than a year ago.
Of course, things got a little more confusing recently, when Dolomite (remember, they own 50 percent of Nitro) merged with Tecnica (another ski boot and footwear manufacturer) in Europe creating a group that has sales of 400-billion lire. Dolomite is now a Tecnic a group subsidiary with owner Franco Vaccari assuming a minority shareholder position in Tecnica as well. He will continue to operate Dolomite as an independent subsidiary company.
This recent merger prompted another move for Nitro. According to Tecnica U.S.A. President John Stahler, both Nitro’s and Dolomite’s staffs will be moved into the Tecnica offices. This will involve relocating roughly twelve to seventeen people into the New Hampshire offices that already employ 65.
“We’ll help them with computers, warehousing, and money management,” says Stahler of the new Nitro and Dolomite staffs. “Nitro will continue with its own product and sales staff.”
It is uncertain at this time whether these staff members will become employees of Tecnica, or will continue to be paid by their European owners who had run the U.S. operations as wholly owned subsidiaries
Stahler admits that the move will be challenging, but believes that his staff will be able to assist the new organizations. “We know what we’re doing, and we’re usually the first to admit when we make a mistake,” he says. “We always emphasize product, product, product.”
According to Nitro’s U.S. Sales Manager John Eskow, the company’s sales and customer service departments are working directly for the owners in Europe, much like a wholly owned subsidiary, not as a distributorship where there needs to be a markup for the managers in each country. But they will also be able to tap into the resources already in place in New Hampshire.
This move will benefit all the companies involved, with Nitro seeing huge advantages, particularly in its boot program, says Eskow. Tecnica and Dolomite will cooperate more closely on product manufacturing and outsourcing, materials purchasing, capital investments for production equipment, financial strategies related to bank relationships and currency issues, and further development of opportunities in the apparel business.
“Nitro can now be considered as a serious and solid player in the boot business,” says Nitro Co-owner Tommy Delago, “and can be compared with any established and respected boot company out there on the market.”
With all these new alliances, the company has seen a huge jump in sales of its snowboard boots in the last tw o years since the partnership with Dolomite, who has been making boots in Italy for 100 years. One big surprise for the company was that its patented custom-foam-fit system boot’s sales jumped by 53 percent last year. This custom-foam-fit system allows the rider to get a custom-molded liner in less than fifteen minutes in the shop when they buy the boot. It doesn’t require an oven or heater; it’s all self-contained.
“We’ve seen well-rounded growth as dealers who carried this system last season commit more units to it, as well as seeing more dealers trying it for the first time this season,” says Eskow.
Last season, Nitro offered this system on two boot models, and this year it was included on three boots, including the Clicker-compatible Stratus, and conventional M agna and Axis. Nitro riders Shin Campos, Kalei Pitcher, and Dan Hunt are all using the new boot-molding system.
Indeed, the team area will also improve from the overall new structure of the company. “Niitro can continue to work in the team area because we can assure our team riders’ solid contracts so that they can concentrate on what their job is and focus on being the best riders in the world.”
Nitro added Seth Neary to its employment list, making him the team manager after many years of riding for the company. He will continue to compete on a limited basis, but will spend more time coordinating photo and video shoots and taking care of team members’ needs throughout the season.
Overall, both Delago and Co-owner Sepp Ardelt are excited about the current alliances the company is a part of. “Nitro’s definitely getting stronger and more strength with this relationship will help the company to establish itself as one of the major players in the snowboard business for the years to come,” says Ardelt. “We’ll be one of the only companies who can offer a complete technical product line where the components not only work together, but where each line including boards, bindings, and boots can also be presented as a line on its own.”
Although the company says it’s been quiet for the last several months, a lot has been going on. Look for more news from Nitro coming in the near future.