While K2 has had backcountry products in its arsenal for a few years, including skis, skins, packs, probes and shovels, the brand announced today that it acquired Backcountry Access for an undisclosed price.
With more companies competing for a small segment of the industry that’s growing—backcountry—K2 president and chief executive officer Anthony De Rocco hopes the acquisition will help further propel K2 into the out-of-bounds market. And, to no surprise, he sees the biggest growth for BCA coming from avalanche airbags.
BCA has been on K2’s radar for a while, but De Rocco says when K2 first approached the small brand, BCA wasn’t for sale. Eventually the small brand came back to K2 ready to sell. And while he wouldn’t divulge the purchase price, De Rocco says it’s a pretty small acquisition in the eyes of K2’s parent company Jarden Corp. (NYSE: JAH).
Skiing Business caught up with De Rocco to find out more about the freshly announced acquisition.
K2 already makes shovels, packs and probes. We assume you bought BCA for its beacon and airbag technology?
We bought BCA because it’s a great brand that makes great products. But what we’re looking for in terms of trending is the backcountry segment. More and more people are venturing out of bounds, and we see there’s a continued, strong need for transceivers. Airbags are really hot right now too, and they are an important piece of equipment to have if you’re going out of bounds. BCA is a leader in both of those categories.
Is the acquisition about diversification?
Alpine ski and snowboard is down this year, but backcountry gear sales seem to be having a solid year. So it’s about diversification, but it’s also about having a well-rounded portfolio and recognizing key categories that we aren’t already in. We’ve had a list of potential acquisitions for some time, and BCA fits really well with our brand and where we want K2 to be.
Having just introduced ski boots, we’re fired up about bringing the K2 brand to a bigger piece of the ski market. BCA adds to that. We already had snow tools, but we didn’t have transceivers or airbags. We plan to keep operating BCA as its own entity and make sure it’s differentiated from K2 in areas where there’s overlap.
What does that differentiation look like?
It’s like operating Full Tilt and K2 ski boots, or Ride and K2 snowboards. We know how to do the multi-brand strategy. BCA comes to this from a core user side, which is different than where K2 does. Bruno (Bruce McGowan) and Edge (Bruce Edgerly) will still run BCA because those guys know what they’re doing, and we don’t want to rock the boat. But there are ways we can leverage each other too.
We have a killer machine shop in Seattle that BCA will be able to use, we have great athletes—many of which already use BCA gear—who will outwardly become BCA advocates, and BCA has great backcountry education tools that we can help promote. And there are a number of stores that BCA is in, but we aren’t and vice versa. We’ll make sure the growth trajectory that they are enjoying right now continues and is fueled by K2.
Now that K2 is even more in the backcountry realm, what do you guys plan to do to educate consumers about safe backcountry travel?
We have educational videos that Mike Hattrup does that we’ll continue to push because education is important. We’ve had discussions with BCA about education and what they already do. We’re going to look at any possible way to get consumers educated no matter if they’re going through a gate at the resort or going from the bottom up. If you’re in the backcountry, you need to be safe, and BCA is the best from a backcountry standpoint. Some stuff will be easy to implement this year, and then we’ll push it more aggressively for ’13-14.
What does the BCA integration plan look like?
We’ll already do some co-branding at OR and SIA, but the reps are already out there selling for ’13-14. BCA has a North American sales structure that works, and we’ll continue with that. We’ll take a look at the international sales structures making sure BCA is in all the key markets.
As can be expected, we’ll look for ways we can save costs on the back end, but we plan to operated the brand as is. And we’ll take a look at their supply chain, and figure out ways we can become more efficient—which is something BCA was already doing. Bruno (Bruce McGowan) and Edge (Bruce Edgerly) will still run the brand. They’ll report to the K2 executive team, but they know what they’re doing more than anyone, and we have complete faith in them. We’ll keep its office in Boulder, Colo. too.