Forgive me if any of the dates are wrong – and feel free to email me with any suggestions of corrections and, better still, if you have any old photos – firstname.lastname@example.org
I started windsurfing in 1972! How? My father, David Way, was 'Special Events Manager' for 'John Player' and looked at Windsurfing as a potential sponsorship. I went along with him to take a look and got hooked. The guy who gave the demo (Clive Colenso) had come up by train and left behind 6 boards (the "Windsurfer"). I bought one for myself and a couple of days later called him to see if I could sell one... then a couple of days later the same thing and ... well... the 6 boards never made it back to him - they were all sold in a few days.
I was at college training to be a Chef - could've been the next Gordon Ramsey!! But soon discovered it was too much like hard work so went back to get some other qualifications (Business Studies) and all through these studies I was windsurfing, racing and selling boards.
I then got my first and only “proper job” as a Management Trainee at Charnos (thanks Tony Hodges). Charnos was a Ladies Lingerie company - nice! I worked there for a year and sold windsurfing boards in my spare time and raced every weekend.
Ken, my brother, had finished his degree in Psychology and also took up windsurfing and racing and joined the business. We seemed to be quite successful at both selling and racing - winning lots of business and lots of trophies.
The “Windsurfer” was a very domineering company and brand, and the design was already very “old” – we thought we could do better and hooked up with Clive to produce a more modern board and the Hangsailer was born (not the best name eh!). Clive sold it in the south and produced all the rigs; we sold it in the north and managed the board production.
A couple of years later we went on our own and started producing the Sea Panther – this quickly became the most successful board in the UK with a huge One Design Class with over 300 competitors at some of our major events.
As windsurfing developed so the range of products expanded and sales continued to improve - for some years it was just growth and more growth with racing and more racing and positive results all round.
In the meantime an American guy called Hoyle Schweitzer (who claimed to be the inventor of the windsurfer*) had a Patent which he started to enforce around the world - and the UK was no exception. We joined a consortium of brands to fight the patent and get it thrown out. The legal battle raged. The costs racked up.
Two years later Hoyle offered us a licence. Suddenly our loyalties were turned on their head. We now looked at the battle from the other side of the fence. Suddenly we wanted to patent to be upheld. And getting licence was our big break - we were courted by all the huge European manufacturers who all wanted to do business with us. We were skint - having pumped loads of money into the consortium to fight the patent and now having dug deeper than our own pockets to pay the upfront fees for the licence. We threw everything we had at it - including money we did not have.
* As a side note it is my personal view that Hoyle Schweitzer really is the ‘father’ of windsurfing - in my mind there is no doubt that without him, and Jim Drake, windsurfing would not have really taken off - so thanks go to them for bringing us this amazing sport.
We were in a very strange position - we were forced to stay in the consortium and to continue making payments to fight the patent. Yet we were licensed under the patent and so were on both sides of the fence and were putting money into a battle that we wanted to lose!
Then the patent case was lost by Hoyle Schweitzer. I suppose you could say it was also won by us as we were still in the consortium! But it did not go the way we wanted. A Brit called Peter Chilvers came out of nowhere and claimed he had invented it all before Hoyle and the patent was thrown out. We’d invested all that money in a licence and now it had no value – we were feeling a bit unlucky to say the least.
"Skint" could not describe our position. The Financial Times picked up on the whole story and ran a large article on us and our endeavors and and a Knight in Shining Armour came along and rescued the company. They took ownership of 75% and we owned 25% with a buy back clause so that, as and when we brought in results, the ownership would switch back to being 75% ours. Seemed like a good deal to us! We snapped their hand off and set about really ramping up the business
We carried on – we were still very successful and just had to work with more competitors in the market than we wanted – hey ho. Life was OK and sales were good and we were having a ball with it all. The Sea Panther range grew, we added products to our stable - Neil Pryde Sails and Tiga Windsurfing boards (France) - our market share grew and grew and the race results continued to flow.
We won an MOD contract to supply the Navy with windsurfing boards. Can you believe that? – the MOD actually had a contract out to bulk buy windsurfing boards. I cannot recall how many – I think it was about 300 or 400 – it was a lot for us and meant that we could keep our factory going through the winter without losing money - the ‘buy back’ was in sight and we were thundering along.
But our Knight in Shining Armour turned out to be a bit of cad – we didn’t see the train coming and on Christmas Eve (1984) we were invited to our “Parent Company” HQ and were sacked on the spot. Ken and I and Margaret (Mother) were out with no notice – nothing. We could not believe it but we were.
Hmmm – what to do? We had started a little windsurfing magazine in 1979 – On Board – and this ran from a small office in Draycott, Derbyshire, with a staff of about 4 or 5, and we went and sat there and twiddled our thumbs wondering what we could do. I think the staff on the mag - including Suzanne Sinclair who later became Suzanne Way - were more dazed than we were. Ken and I were pretty determined - but also really not sure what to do and how to handle it. More solicitors, more money and no real future - only knowing that windsurfing was all we knew.
Down but not out - but what to do?
We made contact with Neil Pryde and explained to him what had happened. Our idea was that we could start again distributing the Neil Pryde product and the Tiga product. But we'd have to move fast. Neil was interested but thought he should stay with the old company for the time being.
We contacted Tiga but they were already in final discussions with another distributor - Goran Nyman (a competitor and a great man - now in Spain and still selling windsurfing kit!). By a stroke of luck we found out that Goran was meeting in London with Tiga a couple of days later and we literally begged the Export Manager to give us a 'hearing' - he agreed but warned us that the decision was already made. We met at Heathrow - our meeting was just before Goran's and in fact he turned up half way through our meeting! He looked pretty fed up! Anyway - final result was that we did it - and persuaded Tiga to come over to us. Now we had a brand and we could start selling and building a new business.
By March 1985 we had set up a new Company – off the shelf name was ‘Calmworld Ltd’- which seemed quite appropriate - we traded as Tiga UK and due to the kindness of yet another competitor (Graeme Fuller - who owned the Windsurfing Show at Alexandra Palace) we were able to get a slot outside the show and were able to show our wares to the public.
The "Knight in Shining Armour" in the meantime was in the process of moving all the tools, moulds, machinery and manufacturing capacity to a new venue near their HQ. The MOD contract had been delivered and they (and we) were waiting for the MOD cheque to come in. Margaret and David Way (parents) had guaranteed the overdraft of the old company but we knew that when the MOD cheque hit the account it would pay off the overdraft and we had agreed with the Bank Manager that at that precise point the overdraft would be cancelled - thus removing the personal guarantee!
It never arrived. Unbelievably we found out that the cheque had been paid over to another company leaving the old company high and dry and bankrupt. They put the company into Administration! The biggest single creditor was Neil Pryde, and the second biggest creditor was us lot!
It was time to make another pitch to Neil Pryde - but this was a difficult one to make - he'd just lost a load of money. Thanks go and full respect to Neil Pryde for sticking with us – and I have to say thanks to Margaret and David Way for also sticking with us. So Neil Pryde joined us at Calmworld Ltd, we found some premises in Long Eaton (where we traded from for 24 years), changed the company name to Ultra Sport UK and once again we were on the up! Tiga was flying, Neil Pryde was flying - John Ball and Vanessa Burrows joined us from the old company - it seemed that we had a bright future.
Happier times continued. We went from strength to strength and the Tiga and Neil Pryde brands flourished.
Business was good, life was good, marriages and kids started to happen, the company expanded within the sport and we also felt it was time to look at new sports and by 1989 we got involved with snowboarding (Sims) and mountain biking (Offroad) – two very young sports. It was not easy, the markets were small and the returns were lean, but it was fun and windsurfing was still flourishing and able to help us build the new divisions.
Jeremy Sladen had joined us (for the first time) on snowboarding and was excited to get a credit card and show us how good he was at using it. (Sorry Jeremy!). And the snow division grew from a very small base to a reasonable size business. The brand Sims had it's own share of problems and was not with us for long - but we picked up other brands and Jeremy did a great job of growing the market and our market share. John Dight joined us on the bike side and Offroad really started to flourish - the small American company were real innovators bringing the first suspension products to the market.
Again - it was all good and on the up and up.
A few years later (was it ’92?) we managed to pick up the giant ski brand Rossignol after the Bankruptcy of their distributor in the UK. And at this point I don't think we could quite believe it. Rossignol - a giant in the ski world was joining our humble little band of brands – we thought that we had it made – little did we know about the ski market.
The snowboard business grew - although Jeremy left us. The bike business grew and Offroad morphed into Pro•Flex and introduced the first rear suspension and later the first full suspension mountain bikes to the market - if you look at modern day full suspension designs you can still easily trace them back to the Pro•Flex bikes. They really were pioneers - but like a lot of pioneers they got into financial difficulties and sold the company to the giant K2 Corp.... and the bike eventually changed it's name to K2 Bike. So here we were now representing some of the most prestigious brands in the market. How could it possibly go wrong!
Windsurfing was still growing (albeit slowing down) and our brands and market share were growing in all sectors and our love for windsurfing, snowboarding, skiing and mountain biking continued. We took Rossignol from a 4% market share to more than a 20% market share... but at a cost! We grew the brand, we gained market share - but we made no money! In fact we lost a packet on the ski sector. Our biggest competitors in ski were subsidiary companies and giants - we could not compete - and we realised that we had to get out and a buyer was found for the brand and Rossignol moved on. And we moved on.
Ken (brother) left Ultra Sport at this point and set up his own business in Sports Psychology and Management Training - Vision Sports Ltd - and is still there to this day - and very successful. (Just to complete the family sporting background - brother Mike is a professional Squash Player in Canada!)
Palmer Snowboards were born and we were happy to take on the distribution adding to our growing snowboard stable. Jeremy joined for the second time around this time to manage the snowboard division. Whilst windsurfing was beginning to show some signs of being a little tired – our brands were still doing extremely well. It was all looking good and we would be entering the new millennium just knowing that there was nothing to worry about.
“Oh lookout – here comes another train” – and this time it was a big one.
K2 BIke was storming ahead - At one stage we had a turnover in bike of over £2m and it was growing faster than we could dream of - forecasts were for £3m, £4m £5m just on bike.......and out other products were all doing well.
Sadly K2 Bike started to screw up rather badly on quality. The innovation was great and moving fast - but their testing procedures were not good and things were rushed to market before they were fully tested. Warranty levels were increasing, the work we were putting into this was massive - there was one year when we had 160% bike returns – that means that every bike we sold came back more than once!! Warranty costs were massive and market reputation and share sunk. We had forecast massive growth and instead experienced massive decline. Because we had to order the bikes as much as 12 months in advance we ended up with huge overstocks of virtually unsaleable product and massive costs! It was a disaster and we looked to the giant K2 to recompense us - we looked hard…and they looked the other way.
We argued our case over and over – but with staff changes at K2 Corp and no knowledge of the history our plea for assistance fell on deaf ears.
Assertive action was need and it was time to get tough. Our days with K2 were coming to an end. The brand was 'trash' in the market place and we did not see a future for it. But this was not the train.. .this was just a small blip..
There was good news however - the innovative and expanding Neil Pryde Group introduced Flow snowboard bindings in 1998, JP Windsurfing boards in January 2000 and Cabrinha in August 2000 - we were naturally their chosen partners for the UK and so we did have something to celebrate and work positively towards... even if there were a few dark days ahead...
We were totally convinced that K2 should compensate us - at least for our costs and if we were lucky for our losses. We with held payment in lieu of the costs we had incurred and started to argue our case. It got to solicitors - and this is where we made our fatal error....we only looked at the winning situation - we did not look at what would happen if we lost!! Our solicitors were totally confident, our Barrister was totally confident - we were going to win - and win big!
The second fatal mistake was not accepting a settlement that they proposed. Nope - we were going to have our day in Court – not just any Court – the High Court in London – and not just one day - it was scheduled for 3 or 4 days. In June 2002 (my Birthday if I recall) we had our day(s) in Court. It was a real David and Goliath case – the might and massive K2 Corporation .v. Ultra Sport…of course we were going to win! How could we lose!
What can I tell you about this? Don’t go to Court. Just don’t do it. The judge was a complete idiot and fell asleep after his lunchtime wine and our Barrister had obviously not come to grips with the case and was badly prepared. Anyway – whatever – we lost. Not only did we just lose in a little way … we lost in a big BIG way. All their costs were awarded against us. We had our own costs to pay. We had to pay them the money we had with held and we had to pay them interest .......… it was a complete disaster and I honestly thought we were sunk. We simply could not pay. We had already paid out tens and tens of thousands of £££ for our own legal costs. Their costs were more than double our own.....
There was one small “result” on that day. I traveled back from London by train, a little dazed, and a great friend of mine met me at St Pancras to travel home with me. But he had a 1st Class Ticket, and I was in cattle class. So I took a risk and joined him – got the free glass of wine, and never got caught – now that was a real victory (Sorry British Rail – I will pay you back).
My views of K2 Corp were pretty low. We had battled with them for a good few years and to me, they had cost me my company and my whole life. It was all over. There was no way that I could pay them and now I was trying to negotiate with their in house lawyers who I had been battling with for years. I thought they'd sink us. A small game of poker followed! I was to be surprised though and whilst I cannot say that they were “Magnanimous in Victory” (I think they were more practical), when they realised that we could not cough up immediately, they gave us time to pay. So thanks go to K2 for that and we set about working harder and harder than ever to survive and pay off the debt. We did it - stuck to our payment plan and cleared it all off – it took some years and decimated our Balance Sheet but we did it.
All through this we had kept building our other brands and picked up new ones – the Northwave Group (Northwave, Drake, Bakoda) had joined our happy band of wintersport brands and were going great guns. Our Neil Pryde portfolio had gone from strength to strength and we were market leaders in most areas that we operated.
We also joined forces with Neil Staples. He had been working in the UK and Ireland with O'Brien and Liquid Force in the waterski and wakeboard markets and with the demise of the distributor he had an opportunity to handle these himself. As it is he chose to join up with us - we had been working together on the Neil Pryde Waterwear (wetsuits) for a few years and Neil felt that the brands would sit well with Ultra Sport. He was right - O'Brien and Liquid Force are two stalwarts of our current stable and Neil, as Sales Director is our team stalwart.
Things continued on a very positive note when in 2004 the Bic Sport collection of Kayak, Surf, Windsurf and Boat products joined us. We had known the previous distributor/agent and fought against him and the Bic Sport brands for many years - indeed Tiga had, years earlier, been bought by Bic Sport. But now this fantastic stable of products - Bic Windsurfing, Bic Kayak, Bic Surf and Bic Boat - were with us - and we could not be more chuffed.
It was also time to leave Long Eaton - we had expanded over the years buying two warehouses, extending one, joining them together and we rented another 3 locations - it had been hard to make it work smoothly. Now we found some land in Castle Donington and set about building a new HQ - it was an exciting time.
The work continued – the brands were growing – and business was once again on the up and up but another episode was about to unfold when on February 13th 2007 Neil Pryde decided that after 29 years of working with us he now wanted to set up his own subsidiary in the UK. We had the chance to run this for him but we’d have to give up some or all of our other brands – and I’d have to give up independence – so that was not going to happen.
Again my Birthday looms large and on June the 22nd we met and agreed on the parting of the ways. By September it was all over and we were no longer representing the brands that had been so much a part of my life - I always used to say that if you cut off my arm you would see the Neil Pryde logo - and JP which we had come to love so much, and Cabrinha - a part of our family - and of course Flow that we had taken from a baby to a fully grown adult. All of these brands had great market share and even though the markets that they operated in were in different stages (windsurfing was in huge decline) - we were doing well. It was really hard to part company - but we had no choice and it was a huge chunk of turnover we were losing. (Although we were later to discover that is was a much bigger chunk of our workload and problems)
The company was now smaller, much easier to run, and much more focused. Although we did have one big old warehouse that we did not really need anymore.
The loss of the Neil Pryde family had an interesting impact on our other brands and the company. Being smaller and more compact it was a much nicer place to work. The 'chips were down' attitude meant that everyone mucked in. The remaining brands all grew - particularly the Liquid Force brand - that had moved into kite - and the Northwave group brands in snowboarding were also growing. That's not to say it was easy. The year following the departure was a tough one financially - but we got through it. Our resilience was standing us in good stead - perhaps all those previous lessons were worth it!
We were also still looking for new brands and were lucky enough to meet Dennis Leedom in September 08 at a show in the USA. Dennis was working with his new brand - BERN - and we quickly agreed to distribute the range for summer sports… they already had a wintersports distributor….. but within 3 months the wintersports division came to us and, well, what can I say? Bern is just a fantastic brand and is selling like hot cakes for water, winter, summer, bike, skate - what an amazing brand. We love it. and thanks go to Dennis and Gary for having faith in us. There is still a huge amount of growth for us in this brand - and if you wear a helmet - get yourself a Bern!
About a year later we got a call from a guy who had worked for Northwave/Drake but had since moved on. He had problems in the UK with their current distributor and could we help them out? We worked with them to ensure that they got through that season and in January 09 we became the UK and Ireland Distributors for Smith Goggles and Helmets. Another great brand joined us - things were looking good.
The World Recession is with us, it is all looking pretty awful out there but for Ultra Sport last year (09) was a pretty good year for us – we added Smith Optics to our portfolio commencing Jan 1st (helmets, goggles and sunnies) and what an amazing bunch of guys and what a great range to sell. We grew the brand and grew our business.
We are always looking for new brands and always looking around the corner to see if we can spot the next train – hopefully if I see one I will get to travel First Class and get some wine – but I’m not paying that price for the ticket – no way!
By March 2010 we were pretty settled with our product portfolio:- Waterski / Wake – we have Liquid Force, O’Brien, Straightline, ClingOn and Random Wintersports – we have Amplid, Northwave, Drake, Bakoda, Smith and Bern Watersports – we have Bic Kayak, Bic Surf, Bic Boat, Bic Windsurfing and Liquid Force Kites Skate, Bike, Snow helmets – we have Bern If you really did read this far - you must suffer from insomnia. By November 2010 it was all beginning to turn into quite an interesting year. Adio Skate Shoes started talking to us in the summer and we agreed to take over the UK Distribution from January 1st 2011. In November 2010 we got wind that NEFF Headwear were having problems with their distribution in the UK and within a couple of weeks we were distributing one of the most exciting emerging brands on the market So far no trains ... and all looking good.
July 2011 - By January 2011 we were interested in getting into the headcam market and started discussions with major brands which culminated in us signing up with Contour for the UK and Ireland. This was a very exciting development for us. The Contour hands free camera range is second to none (yes none! Check it out) and offered a huge opportunity to expand into a whole new area - whilst not forgetting our history and our roots. The hands-free camera market is fast expanding and it is in adrenalin sports that the charge will be lead. We're very excited to be involved. So in the space of 12 months we have added Adio , Neff and Contour - three amazing products, three great brands, three brands with a great future. At the same time almost all of our other brands continued to flourish - but not easily. The market was tough, the economy was tough and there were going to be casualties - we just had to keep our head down and get on with the job in hand.
November 2012 - Against the grain 2012 saw us give up on two brands and, very sadly for me personally, we gave up on windsurfing distribution! Oxbow was the first to go. We loved the brand and we really enjoyed working with the team in France but staff changed at the HQ and we felt that it had lost it's way. We also struggled to find the right staff to run it in the UK and so it was time to call it a day. Almost everything else was going well - we added Jet Pilot in July. Business was going well but there was another major change in the offing. In November 2012 we stepped out of Windsurfing. Unfortunately the level of business in windsurfing had reached an all time low. Most competitor brands were being distributed out of Europe and so we agreed with Bic Sport that we would stop selling Windsurfing kit. For the first time since we started we did not have any windsurfing kit in our armory! I feel a bit sad about that! We can trace our roots back to the start of windsurfing in this country (1974) and if it were not for windsurfing then Ultra Sport would not exist. From the Hangsailer an Sea Panther to AHD and JP with a bit of Tiga and Sailboard in the mix... with Neil Pryde and Simmer Style and Maui Sails... and, of course, Bic Windsurfing there have been a few brands over the years - I may even have missed some. So whilst 2012 is very sad for me in one way it has been a very good year in another. The business has moved forward significantly. We are growing and it all seems to be pretty good. We have a rock solid team, everyone seems happy, the history lessons have been well taken and we are all looking forward to 2013 with great optimism. Onwards and upwards - we have massive opportunities to grow our brands and are setting about that task. I wonder what the next addition to this missive will be like?
A year has gone by and what a year of great an positive things for Ultra Sport. Most of the business has grown and there is hardly a month goes by that we do not get approached by some brand, somewhere in the World to distribute their products. Of course we're fussy here - we like nice things and so we are pretty choosy about what we take on. But there's always a brand that we just cannot say no to... first we've taken on XSories - this is an amazing range of accessories specifically aimed at the action camera market.. and beyond. Whether it is a professional tripod or a hand held 'Big Shot' for your action camera, a Weye Feye (amazing) attachment to smartify your DSLR or just a cover for your GoPro. XSories have the single best range of accessories on the market. At around the same time another iconic winter sports product knocked on our door - POW Gloves (Prisoner of Winter) needed someone to take their brand to the next level and they wanted us. Who were we to say no? These guys and their products are legends in wintersports and we're happy to say that we've kicked off winter 13/14 with some good sales. And a lot more to come. And then came NITRO. What can we say.. the world's second largest snowboard brand wanted us to distribute their amazing lineup of goods in the UK. Boards, boots and bindings.. outerwear and luggage. The range is vast, the products incredible and the team behind the brand is second to none. We could not believe it.. we could not believe our luck and we were totally stoked to be asked to distribute Nitro.. and we still are. Check out these new products - and also check out all our other brands - we love our lineup and we hope you do to? As we approach the end of 2013 we can say it's been a good year for Ultra Sport - with growth in almost all areas and now comes a busy time for us - not just selling, marketing and shipping - but we've just made our biggest investment ever in computer hardware and software. Just. And now we have to settle it all in and get it working by January 1st. I wonder what I will be saying about this in a few months time?
Always the optimist! In February 2014 the new computers have been installed, the new servers are in, the training has been extensive and our GoLive date is just 2 weeks away. ISPO (the worlds largest sports show) has just been completed and we're in the middle of our busiest wintersports sell-in for years. Last year ended great and so far this year (early days) is looking just as good.. and growing. We're taking on 3 new team members and will hopefully continue to bloom.
What happened - almost 4 years since the last update and as always I have a quick read back through the last bit before adding some more.
This makes for interesting reading (for me anyway). When I see the brand changes that we have made in the past few years I do wonder if we took some wise decisions?
We took on Contour Cameras which was a huge success and was flying.. it went from a new brand to our biggest brand in just a few short years... and it had a great future.....until the supplier in the USA went bust. The brand struggled on with different owners and in different guises but the market overtook us - at this point (November 2017) the business has all but died but we are hanging on in there – Contour still has something to offer – we just have to hope that they find a good home. Fingers crossed.
Looking at the on-boarding of brands over those past few years it appeared that we made some mistakes:- Jet Pilot, Neff and Xsories did not work for a variety of reasons and we stopped relatively quickly with those brands. Adio is also no longer with us as the owner/licensee seemed to lose interest and the brand lost its’ way – at least for us it did after some great years. We also had a short spell with Macbeth footwear which turned out to be a mere dabble and was quite a mistake! Amplid was not working – absolutely nothing wrong with the products but it just did not seem to work so we moved on,
But out of that flurry of new products we are pleased to say that both POW and Nitro found a happy home with us and doing really well. We also added Arbor Snowboards (which are now being run by the Liquid Force family in the USA). Arbor is simply beautiful .. not cheap - but beautiful and we’re really happy to have them on board.
There’s a couple of other smaller brands that we took on:- Eivy - a female orientated base layer brand out of Finland – we love this brand, love what it stands for and love what it can potentially do. Growth is on the cards for Eivy – strong growth.
And BBTalkin – this is a technology brand that is revolutionising tuition for our sports – it’s an ‘open channel’ Blue Tooth communication system enabling instructors to communicate with their pupils in real time.. and it’s waterproof so perfect for a lot of our sports. It also has it’s uses for individuals who perhaps want to stay in touch when on the water or snow.. or listen to their music or answer the phone without stopping what they are doing. It’s quite a strange sensation to be banging down a hill when on the phone to your Dad! Great technology.
As for the new computers and software (installed 2014) – it seems that like all adventures in life it is never quite as you hoped it would be. It never quite lived up to expectations but now, after more than 3 years, we have settled down and have a happy relationship with our ‘new’ software and it is serving us well.
Today we're moving fast towards the end of 2017 which has been one of our best ever years - maybe our best ever year. We have achieved some milestones with our biggest ever shipping day, best ever shipping month, best ever winter order book - so that's a good sign.. now we have to 'rinse and repeat' for 2018.
As always we have brands-a-plenty chasing us and there will be one or two new things to announce over the next few weeks. That said the lessons of recent years ensure that caution is required … "be fussy". Be picky about what you take on board and bring on new brands after very careful consideration.
There’s less to write about when things are going well – the recession was tough but like all challenges before we have weathered that storm and our heads are down and we’re working hard.
The next big challenge for all of us is Brexit. For me personally I believe it was a very sad day for our country - it will be interesting to look back at this in a few years and see how it has all gone. For Ultra Sport it is undoubtedly going to bring us huge challenges but I am confident in the team here. We will get through it and will go on to learn some more lessons and improve.
Onwards and upwards… again!
Oh the lessons keep coming! Nothing serious – no trains, no road accidents.
We spent more than a year talking seriously to a great wetsuit brand, more than a year negotiating a contract and more than a year spending money with lawyers to get it right. News got out, customers wanted the brand and we agreed to go ahead an purchase from the factory without a contract… but still the ‘back and fro’ went on and on.
On many occasions we commented “it’s easier to sell this stuff than it is to buy it”. Eventually we gave up – just a few days before our first shipment arrived we threw in the towel. We sold the stock and moved on. I wish them luck. Good brand, bad management with no idea really where they want to go. Wherever it is I hope they are happy with the journey and the destination - but we're not on that train!
And then along came SUPRA. From first introductions to contracts on the table was just a few short weeks. We met the team – they met us - we all felt this was a great match. Contracts signed and on we go. Yes …we’re now selling the most exciting footwear on the market today (they all say that I know) but we’re very excited to be back into footwear and skate - it's early days the indications are all good. Very good. Great reaction to the products and great opportunities lay ahead. Oh.. and what an amazing team behind the brand - they are really on the case and know their stuff. Watch this space and SUPRA is back.
At about the same time we got a call from Steve at FOLLOW wake. He's an Australian (we'll forgive him for that) and he has a fantastic little brand that is not going to stay little for very long. Check out the website and see for yourself. Steve eats, sleeps and breathes FOLLOW and you can see it and feel it in the product. Attention to detail is paramount. Quality at every corner - design, materials and construction.
It was really late in the season for us to get going but we immediately doubled FOLLOW sales in the UK in just a few short weeks .. and the future looks bright. Today you may not have heard of FOLLOW - but we're pretty sure you will tomorrow!
So SUPRA and FOLLOW are the new additions to the stable this year (although I do now have a Grandson … welcome Henry). That’s not to say that we’ve been slacking. We’ve had a record winter pre-order season (even better than last year), bike is booming, the long hot summer helped all of our watersports brands and there’s some new exciting things just around the corner.
The only major negative appears to be the instability of the High Street which is causing concern and, of course, the Brexit thing which is causing massive uncertainty. At the time I am writing this (October 2018) there is still no end in sight. Politicians eh?
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