Vans Acquires Switch

Vans, Inc. recently purchased Switch Manufacturing, creator of the Autolock step-in binding system and Flexible snowboard boot line.

“We’ve been close with Switch for the last three years,” says Gary Schoenfeld, president and chief executive officer of Vans. “It finally made sense for us to work closely together. We said, 'Instead of dating, let’s get married.’ We want to commit more energy to snowboarding and that’s where Switch’s main focus lies. We’re adding the passion for snowboarding that Switch has to our organization.

“Switch is a classic start-up company. But it needs more resources in order to be successful at the next level and that’s what Vans brings to the relationship.”

The deal took a matter of months to negotiate. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but according to Schoenfeld, the founders of Switch now have a major stake in the organization and the success of snowboarding at Vans. “It’s time to take the Vans boot and the Switch binding and make the combination an industry leader.”

Switch will maintain its office in San Francisco where design and development will continue to operate. Other key administrative roles will be moved to Vans’ Santa Fe Springs, California office. These positions include accounts receivable and payable, banking, shipping, customer service, and warehousing. “They currently have a staff of eight people working exclusively on customer service,” says Switch President Erik Anderson. “There will definitely be a transition in the kinds of questions they’ll be addressing and we’ll have our customer-service people working with them in the beginning, bringing them all up to speed.”

Additional personel changes to Switch are expected, though not finalized as of yet. For example, Vans will be responsible for marketing with Switch playing a major role in decisions pertaining to the image of the brand. “The mechanics of marketing will take place at Vans,” Anderson says. “But we’ll maintain as strong a voice as we have in the past.”

As far as the license-partner strategy, Vans and Switch agree that this is an essential part of Switch’s success going into the future. However, Anderson says, “There will be a dramatic reduction in the number of partners. The plan is to have license partners still be a part of Switch sales. The companies we plan to continue working with are Northwave, Raichle, and Heelside.”

Schoenfeld agrees that continuing relationships with the license partners will benefit both Vans and Switch. “There’s a lot of demand for the brand Switch and to limit that would be a mistake,” he says. “We want to support snowboarding and make Switch a widely used system. That’s really our strategy.”

Where does Vans see this relationship going in the future? “We want to continue to be one of the top boot brands on the market,” Schoenfeld says. “Burton is definitely number one. We don’t want to bump them, but we do want to be a major player.”

Schoenfeld says there’s definitely a possibility that Vans might get into other snowboarding hardgoods. “We love the sport,” he says. “It fits perfectly with Vans’ lifestyle, and if something came along and it made sense, we’d definitely consider it. But boots and bindings go together so that was a logical step.”