We just heard the sad news that Burton, who own 'The Program' brands of Forum, Foursquare and Special Blend, has decided it will "exit out of The Program brands in winter 2014". With no plans to sell the companies, it looks a near certainty that these brands are headed for the Great Trashow Hall in the Sky. Read more...
Burton took the reigns of Forum, Foursquare and Special Blend when the company who previously owned them, Fourstar, went tits up. At the time the move was viewed with more than a couple of raised eyebrows as many of the brands' riders quickly 'found themselves other sponsors', but Burton's insistence that they were slowing "the trend of ski companies buying up snowboard brands" was valid, along with the support they offered the brands in terms of service, distribution and logistics. Arguably Burton's takeover helped steady the ship in troubled waters.
Now, due to a large scale restructuring, Burton has decided that at this time it's prudent to focus on its core business and, sadly this means The Program will be put out to grass in 2014.
This is from the press release: "Also part of today’s restructure, Burton announced it will transition out of its Program brands (Foursquare, Forum and Special Blend), which were purchased in 2004 with the intent to keep snowboard companies in the hands of snowboarders. Burton has supported these brands for eight years and will continue to support them over the next year through warranty service, dealer support, marketing and inventory. The company will exit out of The Program brands in winter 2014, in order to better focus on and invest in Burton."
In essence, they want to back their winners and for the B that would be Burton hardware and outerwear. Strictly in business terms it's an understandable move in a tough economic climate, but for the brands and the people involved it is a bitter pill to swallow.
Reaction from both riders and industry heads has been flooding in across the social networks, perhaps best summed up by this from Alek Østreng on Instagram: "Really sad to hear the news that Forum Snowboards has come to and end. I am going to miss all the good times with the homies at Forum. I have only been there for 3 years but that has been the best years of my life."
With Burton's insistence that they will not sell the brands, a campaign to give Forum back to founder Peter Line has quickly been doing the rounds. This would be perhaps the happiest of endings, but whether anything will come of it – or whether Line would even want it if it is even possible – remains to be seen.
Here's the press release in full, including Burton's plans for Analog, Gravis, RED and Channel Islands. #giveFORUMtopeter
Burton Realigns its Family of Brands for Long-Term Success
BURLINGTON, VT (October 23, 2012) Burton Snowboards today announced that its senior management team has elected to alter the structure of Burton owned brands to better position the company, its retail partners and stakeholders for the future. The current family of brands includes Analog, Gravis, RED, anon, Foursquare, Forum, Special Blend and Channel Islands. During a company-wide meeting today at its headquarters inVermont, Burton Founder and CEO Jake Burton explained the new structure and how it will allow Burton to focus on what it does best: make and support products that set the bar for snowboarding development and further progress the sport and lifestyle.
Specifically, Burton announced the following changes to its structure and subsidiaries. Over the next year, Analog will return to its roots of being a pure snowboardingbrand based at its original home in Burlington, Vermont. Analog has a deep heritage in snowboarding from the day when Greg Dacyshyn (Burton Chief Creative Officer) and the late Jeffy Anderson (Team Rider) gave birth to the brand in Burlington, and as such, will revert back to being a winter-only brand. Burton’s Gravis brand will ultimately move its headquarters to Tokyo, Japan and moving forward will be solely distributed in Asian markets selling lifestyle shoes and bags. Gravis was established in 1998 as the company’s first independent lifestyle brand, and since then, Asia has been by far its most successful region. As a result, Gravis will now focus purely on this market and opportunity. Further, in a move that Burton has been planning for several years, the company will also start developing protective headwear under theanon brand name. Burton will continue to offer its RED helmets on a limitedbasis, but the bulk of helmet and optics product lines will be combined under the anon brand, which has become synonymous with quality riding accessories.
Also part of today’s restructure, Burton announced it will transition out of its Program brands (Foursquare, Forum and Special Blend), which were purchased in 2004 with the intent to keep snowboard companies in the hands of snowboarders. Burton has supported these brands for eight years and will continue to support them over the next year through warranty service, dealer support, marketing and inventory. The company will exit out of The Program brands in winter 2014, in order to better focus on and invest in Burton.
Finally, Channel Islands, which was acquired by Burton in 2006, will be unaffected by this brand realignment and will continue to design, develop and manufacturebest-in-class surf hardgoods products in Carpinteria, California.
In addressing all of these changes, Jake Burton had this to say: “Burton has experienced several years of income growth since the recession and paid outbonuses to employees over the last two years," said Jake. “That said, the economy has a voice of its own that we all have to listen to, and the message is clear: do what you do best and focus purely on it. In our case, that means to narrow our focus to the sport and lifestyle that got us here – snowboarding. We will continue to support Channel Islands in its endeavor to make the best surfboards in the world and Gravis in its new home in Japan, but when you walk through the front door here in Burlington, Vermont, it will be all snowboarding and snowboarding lifestyle all the time – driven by the Burton, Analog and anon brands."
Jake went on to share that one of the key factors that led senior management to these decisions includes the success of Burton’s entry into the apparel and bag/pack business on a year-round basis, which has grown significantly in all seasons. The message Burton has taken from the marketplace is that for long-term success, this is the direction that the company should be pursuing, along with its core hardgoods and outerwear business.
Increasing the company’s focus on Burton has also been demonstrated by recent significant investments in Burton’s headquarters and infrastructure. These include the acquisition of the building next door to its Burlington, Vermont headquarters where the company not only built Craig’s, a new 10,000-square-foot R&D and prototype facility, but also Area 13, a 6,000-square-foot Burton/anon/Analog wholesale showroom. Craig’s (named after the late Craig Kelly) is known as the most advanced and sophisticated snowboard prototype facility in the world where ideas are conceived, built and on-snow in less than 24 hours. Area 13 is Burton’s marquee showroom where retailers from all over the world can come to Vermont to see future product lines. Like today’s announcement, both of these examples demonstrate the company’s commitment to the long-term growth, progression and success of the Burton snowboard brands.
In closing, Jake went on to state the following: “I take full responsibility for the decisions that led to the creation (or acquisitions) of these ancillary brands, and I similarly am the individual ultimately responsible for the decision to realign and focus more purely on what made this company from the start. Clearly, the most difficult aspect of this decision and transition is the people affected. The employees and team riders associated with these brandshave poured their guts into making it happen. Their level of commitment hasbeen extraordinary, and we will do everything we can to help support them through this transition. There is never a good time for moves like this, and we could have delayed the announcement, but it isn’t our style to perpetuate a myth. Clearly this transition will pose challenges along the way, but in the long run, everyone will see the results of our commitment to our core business."