With the Industry's attention on the pending Ride/K2 deal, it would be easy to forget that K2 is still in the process of integrating Morrow into the operation.
We tracked down Morrow's Sales Manager Greg Hughes and asked him about Rob Morrow rejoining the Morrow team, how the transition is going, and whether he feels forgotten in the wake of the Ride deal.
So, Rob Morrow has decided to continue on with the Morrow Snowboards brand. What will his role be? He'll be one of our main spokepeople and an important consultant when we're designing the board line–and with all our snowboard products for that matter. He'll be out there visiting shops and riding. We're actually giving him a photo incentive. He still rides a bunch–proabaly more than ever now that he's up in Whistler.
What attributes will his involvement maintain in the Morrow brand, and what will he also give K2 that wasn't there before? It's important for people in the industry and especially the retailers to know that Rob is still a part of it. He was the founder of Morrow and his philosophy is an important part of the brand and it's direction. Hey, it's his name on all the boards. It's importnat to the industry–especially at this stage of the game–to see that a visionary like him in involved with the brand. Plus, Rob is a fun guy–he'll certainly help me enjoy my job a lot more.
What he brings to K2 is the clear sign that sure, they bought the brand, but they've also taken a big step to keep the people who made the brand involved with it's future direction.
Are you worried that the Ride deal has stolen your thunder? It's a bit of a worry, but more from an external point of view than in-house. People have moved on from talking about the Morrow deal to talking about Ride, and in some ways we really didn't have an opportunity to get out into the shops and talk about what we're planning to do. But on an internal level, I certainly don't feel as if we aren't getting what we need because of Ride. I haven't noticed any difference. We're just busy getting stuff out to the stores.
What's the biggest change in your day-to-day management of the brand? In many ways, I feel like a guardian of the Morrow brand. K2 Product Manager Sanders Nye is busy doing products. We have a few new people working on the Morrow brand, but they really don't have the same historical perspective about Morrow as I do. But it's mostly an internal deal.
Have things gotten easier or harder for you? Right now, it's a little bit harder, just because I feel we need to address the rumors floating around out there. We've sent a letter out to retailers outlining how our distribution strategy will remain the same, and I'm also busy on the phone talking to retailers.
So what can you say to stop all the distribution rumors? Really, only time will tell, but I think they won't stop until the retailers see our stuff in specialty stores and not in chains stores and not at Sam's Club.
How has K2's acquisition of Morrow changed your marketing budget?It's probably gotten a little bit bigger. It's nice to be able do things that we wanted to, but couldn't for financial reasons. We also don't have any lingering issues that we were tied to, so in many ways, it's a nice fresh start.
So, how will K2 be able to manage so many different brands? It's possible because the products are different. I try to point to the business models found in other industries. For example, Ford owns Volvo but that doesn't affect who each company designs, manufactures, or markets their cars. These are two different products with different consumers. It's pretty unlikely consumers would decide not to buy a Volvo so they could buy a Taurus.
Plus, it think all this blows over most consumers' heads. For the most part, they don't pay attention to who owns the business, as long as the product is good and is found in the right places.
What changes to the line have been made as result of the purchase? The Morrow focus has become more specialized. We decreased the number of our board families to about six, because the market isn't as wide as it was. We don't need a freeriding Alpine board. Freestyle will be our focus.
Morrow was a declining brand before the K2 acquisition. What are you doing differently now to counteract that? Even though we were declining overall, there were some categories in which we were declining more than others. So, the first step was to get rid of all those categories that were declining the most.
What are some important dates we should keep our eyes on? I think the first date will be when everyone ships into the stores, and they see all the brands where they've always been and with no surprises.
Then, of course, the second big date will be the SIA Vegas show. That's when people will see three brands under one umbrella, but three brands that look different and have different messages. That's going to be the real test.