Alpina is one of the favorites in winter sports retail. As in the previous year, the Uvex subsidiary achieved the top spot in the supplier ranking. The Alpina formula for success reveals in the SAZsport podcast, Head of Product, Sales and Marketing Patrick Hebling.
Made in Germany, specialized trade-oriented, lifestyle and ever more sustainable products, and even in difficult times the brand shows strength by not building up pressure in the trade, but acting in partnership, individually and flexibly. This is how the successful formula of Alpina Sports (Sulzemoos) can be summed up in the year of the 40th anniversary.
SAZsport: Congratulations on winning the best manufacturer of the year in the winter sports category, Mr. Hebling. They have won for the second year in a row, with even better trading marks this year. In your opinion, what was decisive for this?
Patrick Hebling: First of all, I would like to thank all of the dealers who voted us first. If you look at the notes, you can see that we attach great importance to our service. I think that the specialist trade feels that and they give us back their trust. We see the specialist trade as our most important partner. The specialist trade made us great. He made us what we are today in the 1980s and 1990s. But ultimately the most important thing is the product, and we are very well positioned here. We always offer high quality at a fair price. With products made in Germany from our two own plants in Germany, we save a lot of CO2. With the “Prolan” back protector made from sheep’s wool, we have also developed the first safety product made from a renewable raw material. We see this only as a start in terms of sustainability. In the future, we want to further optimize or minimize our ecological footprint.
SAZsport: Alpina was able to improve from 1.78 to 1.73 compared to the previous year. In a total of three of the six specified criteria, Alpina landed first place, namely with service with a grade of 1.27, with partnership behavior with 1.46 and with trade margins and conditions with 1.73.
Hebling: We do not attach particular importance to a single category, we generally want to be very cooperative with our dealers. Service has always played a major role in this. We have a great after-sales team and very good teams in the office and in the field. I think that we showed ourselves to be very flexible in the pre-orders, especially in the difficult phase in the spring when the lockdown went, and also accommodated trading with certain measures without building up pressure. That is certainly reflected in the grades.
SAZsport: How is the Alpina team set up and how does the brand differentiate itself from the sister company Uvex?
Hebling: We have over 40 employees at our headquarters in Sulzemoos, who are divided into national, international, administration, supply chain, product management, product development, design and marketing. Our central warehouse with our logistics department, after-sales service and over 20 employees is located in Laimering. Alpina is part of the Uvex Sports subgroup within the Uvex Group. We address different target groups with both brands. With Alpina, we want to design personal protection products in such a way that they become lifestyle products. Trendsetting is an important aspect here. Whether cycling or winter sports enthusiasts – we want to enable end consumers to enjoy their activities and adventures with products that protect them and inspire them to express their personality.
SAZsport: What does Alpina offer specialist retailers besides the pure product?
Hebling: We pursue a 360-degree approach that also includes digitization: This means that we offer our retailers a wide range of options, from shop displays and communication measures on all social channels to commerce links on our website. We want to support the multichannel business of retailers as best as possible. We want to grow together, especially in what is currently the very dynamic online area. In order to achieve this, we have meanwhile positioned ourselves very well through major investments in the digital sector. Among other things, we are now able to provide even more targeted content and information with a new CRM and our MDB (media database) and thus to intensify our cooperation with retailers again. Certainly the bike retailer is currently doing better than the sports retailer, but everyone has to go digital. And we are ready to go along with the dealers.
SAZsport: Alpina owner Michael Winter assumes a double-digit minus in winter sports. Will the ski touring segment not be able to cope with that?
Hebling: The losses will certainly be in the double-digit range. Tours won’t save the industry for the entire winter. The time between Christmas and January will be decisive. What will happen to Corona, a lockdown in Germany and the Alpine regions? We are very happy that we have bike helmets or sports glasses that really work for twelve months. We benefit from this boom, but it would also be a good opportunity for sports retailers to think about this range, to benefit from the frequency of these customers and to take away additional purchases. Services could be outsourced to specialists, just as ski dealers are already doing.