Good bye Cloudveil, Hello Corporate Branding of the Outdoors

This morning I woke to some sad news for lovers of the kick ass outdoor clothing.  The wonderful Splitter Choss blog reported on the sale of Cloudveil to a company in Conneticut.  In the new parent company’s infinate wisdom they fired (or let go) the current staff and have made the insane descision to close down their retail store in Jackson and put an end to direct sales through the internet.

New owner Jim Reily had this to say on the Mountain Mummers blog:

• Online sales and our Web presence — We have discontinued Cloudveil online sales in favor of a select number of online partners. This was based on our determination that Cloudveil as an organization must refocus on the wholesale distribution of our brand. This fall, we will resume servicing our pro accounts and friends and family through the Web site and direct communication. These programs will be reviewed in the coming days and be ready to supply great Cloudveil products in the fall. The community sites like Twitter and Facebook also will continue.

How does one build a brand by cutting into your bottom line by only selling wholesale?  The only way to stay profitable and only sell to wholesale customers is to cut production costs.  As far as I know there are two ways to do that.  Go with the Toyota Production System like some companies and maintain direct sales, or to cut costs on the product itself.

The Northface did a similar thing in the ninties.  At that time I started noticing several jock kids who had never spend anytime out in the woods started showing up at school with fleece jackets and vests.  I was wondering where they had came upon this quality outdoor brand, until I had the unfortunet experience of walking into a Dillards at Westgate Mall.  Suddenly the products I had dreamed about where at a price point I could afford, sadly they fell apart after a few camping trips.

On top of the brand taking a hit because of decreased quality their decision to move the brand from its home in Jackson Hole is going to rob it of its mountain cred.  I wonder if their going to remove the “Inspired Mountain Apperal” Tagline from their logo.

I feel for the people who lost their jobs because of the sale.  These people went to work for a company who that they belived in.  One that had roots in the mountains that inspired the founders of the brand in the first place.  Now, inspired mountain clothing will come from cheap factories, with the procceeds lining the pockets of investors instead of going back to the community.  This is a sad day for independent outdoor manufacuteres.

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