With the recent hire of Hans Bergman as managing director of North American operations, Kjus is now focusing on bringing more of a brand presence to the States.
While it’ll keep its office in Farmington, Maine, the brand is looking to open an office in Boulder, Colo. too.
So Skiing Business spoke with Bergman and Brooke Mackenzie, Kjus’ North American key account and marketing manager, to find out more about its North American push.
What’s Kjus’ focus on Boulder, Colo.?
Hans: Well two-thirds of our sales are generated within Colorado and Utah, and, for that reason, we need to be close to the accounts where we generate traffic to help build the brand. Boulder is also close to the SIA show, which is the show we value most. Boulder, as a city, whether it’s the outdoor lifestyle, fine dining, or anything, represents the Kjus attitude well.
Brooke: The people in Boulder are very athletic, outdoorsy and they appreciate the technology that Kjus has to offer probably a lot more than other areas. With Boulder being the hub of the outdoor world, and especially the outdoor winter world, it just makes perfect sense to have Kjus here.
We are looking to expand our showroom and put in some offices for Hans, myself and the other territory reps. We’re just going to have a larger showroom and a little more of a presence in Boulder for our customers.
What is the main push for Kjus in North America and particularly the United States?
Brooke: We’re doing some restructuring with the western United States, by dividing into smaller territories to have more Kjus people out there supporting our retailers.
Hans: As far as how we do business, we need to do much better at training and making people aware of what separates Kjus from our competitors. We need to tout our uncompromising performance, quality and going the extra mile of providing a garment that’s just going to work better on the slopes.
I don’t think we necessarily need to make a huge marketing push to get the word out about Kjus in the U.S. I just think we need to follow through and do it. Once our products come out, American dealers will realize.
Kjus recently went through a bunch of changes at the corporate staff level. What’s the root of that?
Hans: Unfortunately, Bruce Mackenzie passed away, which was a really big blow to the sales organization and its foundation. That really triggered a lot of exits, especially in that office. A legacy died, but now it’s time to revamp how we operate our sales and marketing departments.
Brooke: Bruce was the first sales rep for Kjus in the U.S. and had really helped the company grow until he passed away unexpectedly in April. I think that expedited the need for change. He was a huge legacy in the ski industry, so the new structure in the Western U.S. is to carry the torch and capture the retailer and the consumer.
I wouldn’t say there was a problem with things that we weren’t doing. But we’re very excited to have Hans on board because he knows how to address the customer to make them feel really special, and that’s what our brand is.
Some of your competitors like Descente, Spyder and Patagonia are trying to attract a younger audience. What is Kjus doing to attract younger skiers?
Brooke: We understand that we’re not going to provide an inexpensive collection for that kind of customer. That’s not the kind of customer that we’re trying to attract, but we are very sensitive to that and the freeride look. Our FRX collection is more loosely fitting with a lot of shells that are meant for the extreme skier. We have a freeride team that helps us design this line, so if we have a consumer that is looking for top-quality gear that allows them to ski hard, we have products that are going to cater to that. It is our second season with this collection, and it has been selling well and starting to grow with young customers.
But are you guys worried about out-pricing other consumers?
Brooke: No. We’re trying to get somebody who understands premium. I think there is always going to be a place in the market for someone who appreciates quality and is willing to pay a little more for extra value.
We’re not going to cut corners in that sense to make a product that’s cheaper. Our philosophy from the beginning has been that we can create the best technology, fabrics and fit no matter what that’s going to cost. And we won’t stray away from that.
Hans: We’re not going to try to be something we’re not. We have to live to the fullest with the model of the vision we have for uncompromising performance and that means that our jackets will be made to the best of our ability.