Three years ago, Scarpa and Black Diamond split. The company formed Scarpa North America as a wholly-owned subsidiary and set out on a mission of establishing the brand as an all-year player in outdoor specialty footwear. The mission has been almost fulfilled with the launch of SKUs for trail running this summer.
Kim Miller, who was previously with Black Diamond and is now Scarpa North America’s CEO, said that Scarpa was driven by the realization that it was not getting enough focus to compete with European brands like Lowa or Asolo, which have more of a standalone presence. It wasn’t about finding a better distributor. Black Diamond would be a difficult partner.
Miller said, “We realized that Scarpa would need to modify the model to be more directly linked to the North American markets in all aspects — marketing sales and product development — it’d take something different than a distribution model.”
Miller was joined by Chris Clark, who was appointed sales and marketing manager the same day Black Diamond parted ways. They quickly made decisions together to strengthen relationships with retailers and increase margins.
Clark explained that “right away, we lowered the prices and increased margins. This was because, as brand owners, we had a 30% margin to play with that didn’t have to be divided with a distributor.” Clark explained that standard footwear saw a 45 percent margin, while most prices fell by 10 percent.
Scarpa, an Italian brand, is currently owned by five Parisotto relatives: Sandro Parisotto, Scarpa president and CEO; Davide Parisotto, director of research, production, and development for Scarpa globally; Andrea Parisotto, CFO of Scarpa North America; Cristina Parisotto, product manager; Piero Parisotto, administrative manager for Scarpa.
The Parisottos introduced Heinz Mariacher to their Scarpa family. Heinz Mariacher is a well-known designer and manufacturer of hiking and climbing shoes. Mariacher worked with Davide Parisotto, Scarpa North America, and other team members to establish a timeline for Scarpa’s expansion in North America.
The company introduced a new climbing line in late 2006 and early 2007. It also introduced backpacking boots that were heavier than other brands.
Clark explained that “Because of our Italian heritage, and the expertise in our factory, were we able to introduce products which did not exist on the market anymore and we started selling like gangbusters heavier trails and lighter mountaineering shoes.” “It was footwear that was still Eurocentric that retailers gave us a chance.”
Mark Mathews joined Scarpa North America as the director of sales and summer product design. He told SNEWS that he was a competitor to Vasque at the time. As production moved to Asia, Scarpa’s business declined. Vasque was not able to produce heavier leather boots due to this change.
Miller answered our question about the sales breakdown of Scarpa NA in 2008. He said rock shoes were the best-selling product in terms of units in 2008. It was hiking boots in 2007. Before Scarpa NA was established, ski boots were the main footwear for distribution. They have never been a popular choice.
Clark stated, “We needed to diversify. One of the things that was clearly on our to-do lists was expanding our rock climbing offerings and hiking.”
Scarpa’s success was not dependent on the development of new products. Miller explained that Scarpa NA was more than a conduit to Italy. It was an integral part of the overall business success of Scarpa. We were informed that Italy fully accepted this concept, and the results are visible.