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Tiffany Montgomery
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New Active President on rebuilding brand relationships and more

By Tiffany Montgomery
April 20, 2010 8:39 AM

I’ve heard from a few vendors that the new ownership team at Active Ride Shop is working hard to rebuild relationships with manufacturers.

I’ve also heard that there’s a 180-degree turnaround in the general attitude and transparency in how the company is operating after new owners bought the chain out of bankruptcy.

One way 21-store Active is trying to strengthen ties to vendors is through a new Brand Spotlight initiative. I asked Active President Esmail Mawjee about the mission behind the spotlights and about Active’s new operating aura as well.

First a little background: Under the previous ownership, Active went on an expansion spree that led to a bankruptcy filing, costing vendors millions as unpaid invoices were wiped out by the bankruptcy court.

Brand Spotlights

Brand Spotlights started in February with RVCA, followed by Altamont in March, and Comune this month.

Next up are Matix, Crialtap (Girl, Chocolate and Fourstar), and Emerica in July.

For the brand, the program includes a sales contest for employees to help bring attention to the brand; working with the brand to update POP and imagery in stores; a highlight on the homepage of the web site; a video brand spotlight; a profile of a pro skater or a product review; an email blast to the substantial Active database announcing the brand of the month; an opportunity for two autograph signings; and more.

“The Brand Spotlights initiative gives Active an opportunity to work with our premium vendors in showcasing their brands and, at the same time, going beyond the transactional relationship to establishing true long term partnerships with them,” Esmail said.

Active says the program increases brand sales. RVCA sales in stores rose 26% over the same period in 2009 and online sales increased 48%, Esmail said. And, RVCA was the No. 1 brand both in stores and online for the month it was featured. Other brands also experienced substantial increases.

“The point of purchase is crowded with marketing material, but we had the chance to take a leadership position with new window graphics, light boxes, sections, and other POS throughout their doors,” RVCA Marketing Director Brian Garofalow. “Before shoppers even entered stores, we were reaching them through co-branded viral videos, digital promotions, and driving sales with consumer contests advertised by both RVCA and Active.”

Here are some other questions I asked Esmail:

Why are you focusing on increasing honesty and transparency in the Active culture?

Honesty and transparency are key to building and maintaining long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with our suppliers. Most of them are willing to work with you if you communicate openly and in a timely manner with them.

Remaining fiscally disciplined and respecting our vendors’ needs are also important in regaining their confidence.

Rebuilding relationships has taken time and effort, especially after what some vendors lost through bankruptcy.

In my personal conversations with them, I am mindful of their pain. Yet, I also remind them that Active under the new ownership presents a fresh opportunity to recoup those losses and grow our businesses together.

How has business been going? Will all 21 stores stay open? Are same store sales in positive territory?

Business has been going great! There is a lot of excitement within and outside the company about the new direction Active has taken.

While the economy has not fully rebounded, we have been keyed in on defining what has always made Active special.

We have been putting a lot of energy into regaining our customer, taking care of our employees and rebuilding our partnerships with our vendors.

As of now, all 21 stores will remain open. We have been having comp store increases with every day presenting new challenges and opportunities, and we hope that we continue on this positive upward swing.


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