We reached out to K2 Sports President John Colonna to find out how the company has adjusted to the pandemic, why K2 is growing again, the DTC plan, and what new products are coming.
The K2 portfolio includes K2 Skis, K2 Snowboarding, K2 Skates, Ride Snowboards, Line Skis, Full Tilt Boots, Backcountry Access, Atlas Snow-Shoe Co., Tubbs Snowshoes and Madshus.
One thing is clear from our conversation – John is very confident that K2 will continue to gain market share, especially in the freeride category where the brand has seen great success with the Mindbender collection.
“All I can say is I would be concerned if I was the competition. Freeride is our category and I look forward to continuing to take back our market share from the European brands,” he said.
How has K2 been impacted by the pandemic?
K2 Sports President John Colonna: Well instead of panicking, we went right into planning mode when things got real in March of 2020. As retailers, especially those without e-commerce, began to reduce orders, we placed risk where our consumer insights pointed such as areas of backcountry and outdoor.
Fortunately our portfolio of brands is diverse from ski to snowboard to backcountry to outdoor with our snowshoe brands. This allowed us to get conservative in some ski areas while balancing that with some strategic planning through use of carry-over and focus on our core initiatives.
In snowshoe and backcountry, we are seeing a double digit increase in demand and no sign of it slowing down going into the new season. Expectations are for a preseason order increase from our key partners along with new brick-and-mortar expansion opportunities globally.
One of my favorite quotes is “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” After the sucker punch from COVID, we regained confidence as we looked at our plan and all agreed it was still solid.
What adjustments has the company made? For example, did K2 cut inventory levels or keep them stable? Did you shrink staffing levels, etc.?
John Colonna: Tough decisions were made in areas of cost savings resulting in furlough plans throughout our global teams for most of the summer going into the season. This combined with some cost cutting in obvious areas like travel and tradeshows allowed us to maintain our marketing, team and product plans.
What has been the biggest surprise during the pandemic?
John Colonna: The amount of people who bought inflatable SUPs, me included (ha, ha). I think most of us who are smart saw the macro dots being connected on the outdoor trend globally from street style, environmental awareness and the ecotherapy aspect of being outside – but maybe did not realize how much the pandemic would fill this.
I think most people are shocked by the digital shift in our market but I see this as overdue for the snow industry and about time.
How are things playing out this winter season?
John Colonna: Things are playing out great considering the challenges we faced from marketplace shifts, retailer uncertainty and regional lockdowns. Europe remains a riddle due to the restrictions in travel and resorts being closed until mid-January. But I am confident in the consumer demand that exists to rebound aggressively coming out of this season there.
Is K2 growing again? If so, what do you attribute that to?
John Colonna: Yes. K2 is growing. We starting back on the growth journey towards the end of 2018 and focused on keeping our momentum. Through the launch of our freeride ski collection of Mindbender and resetting our boot program, we were able to reignite confidence in our key partners to turn the business around.
We followed up in ski with a new carving program called Disruption this season and will continue to innovate in freeride and touring which is at the core of the brand.
On the snowboard side, we began to refine our freeride program with the introduction of Alchemist and outpace our competition by delivering a better step-in product with the launch of our Clicker X HB.
Product is king and the elevation of marketing and our athletes has been the key in both categories for us to maximize potential in capturing market share.
It looks like Mindbender Collection has been a big hit – how are you building on that success? Are new innovations planned?
John Colonna: All I can say is I would be concerned if I was the competition. Freeride is our category and I look forward to continuing to take back our market share from the European brands. We have a new collection coming next season and some surprises that will help amplify our story and position.
How does K2 approach DTC? Is that something you’d like to expand in the future?
John Colonna: This is an area we have been focusing on for the last couple seasons. The most important thing for us is the consumer experience, increasing the speed of the consumer feedback loop into our process and leveraging this to sustain our marketing spend.
We will shift more brands to the DTC platform over this season and the following season here in North America and globally as the market shift continues. We will grow the business in a healthy way and do not feel our program will disrupt retail growth long-term.
Can you give us an update on Ride – how the brand is doing, any new big plans?
John Colonna: Ride is still positioned for growth. The internal and external team behind the brand is next level and they continue to hit the bar as we raise it each season. Success is coming from the solid program built with the Warpig, the recent introduction of a new binding collection, and staying on top of the success in our boots.
Recent drops like Trouble Andrew or the re-signing of Russel Winfield to the team are good examples of how we will continue to build energy and brand awareness each season.
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