Rossignol – a ski to recycle – Economy

The pandemic has hit the winter sports industry hard. Because of Corona, the slopes were largely closed in many regions last season, but this season, which is now coming to an end, there were still restrictions in many places. But the industry has been suffering for a long time, skiing is becoming less and less possible due to climate change, and there is more and more snow. And now there’s the war.

No easy prerequisites for Vincent Wauters. Born in Belgium, he took over the management of the French sports brand Rossignol last year. The company with the bird in its logo – Rossignol means nightingale in French – is one of the internationally best known in the winter sports industry. In February at the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, athletes wearing Rossignol equipment achieved 77 podium finishes, including 25 victories, primarily in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and biathlon, reports Wouters proudly. “The racing fever is spreading to the entire team here,” believes the company boss, who is connected from the headquarters near Grenoble. He took over from Bruno Cercley, who had led the company on and off for some 16 years. So a new era.

Belgian Vincent Wauters has been head of the French sports brand Rossignol since last year.

(Photo: Rossignol)

Wouters came “in the middle of a storm”, as he says himself. During the pandemic, Rossignol had to temporarily close plants, send employees on short-time work, and cut management salaries. In 2020/21 the winter season and with it a large part of the business in important markets such as France, Germany or Italy were practically canceled. Rossignol lost sales significantly, sometimes by 50 percent, even if things went better in the USA, Canada or Scandinavia. Now things are looking up again. But an estimated 80 percent of the turnover of 310 million euros is still made by the French in winter sports, with alpine and cross-country skis, shoes, bindings and winter outfits.

Now the industry is also having trouble with the war in Ukraine. On the one hand, there are now tourists from Russia with purchasing power in winter. On the other hand, the Ukraine is an important location for the ski industry. Rossignol’s suppliers, for example, had to stop production in Ukraine because of the war, while the French are trying to relocate them to Romania or Italy. In addition, Rossignol has also stopped all business in and with Russia. “We have also stopped our relations with all Russian athletes, as well as all international ski federations,” says Wouters. In addition, there are rising prices and inflation, which caused concern.

The French want to benefit from the “trend towards the mountains”.

Wouters now wants to change course and is pursuing a dual strategy. On the one hand, he wants to become less dependent on the winter business and, on the other hand, focus on more sustainability. As one of the first companies in the sector, Rossignol wants to offer a recyclable ski. “We develop skis that can be largely recycled,” announces Wouters and: “Our goal is for a third of our skis to be recyclable by 2028.” Production is already mainly in Europe. Rossignol has three factories in France, one each in Italy and Spain. Special recycling machines are to be developed there in the future.

Rossignol: Rossignol's headquarters are located in the French commune of Saint-Jean-de-Moirans, near Grenoble.

Rossignol’s headquarters are in the French commune of Saint-Jean-de-Moirans, near Grenoble.

(Photo: Rossignol)

In addition, the product range is to be expanded. “Climate change will have a major impact on skiing,” he says. At some point it may only be possible at higher altitudes. But this is not a brutal change, it is taking place gradually. “Rossignol is a brand for alpine life,” says Wouters. That includes more than skiing, it is a way of life. “There’s a big trend towards the mountains in all seasons,” he says.

That is also true. But the competition is also big and getting bigger all the time. There are many outdoor brands fighting for the market and customers. Even the big ones like Nike or Adidas have already discovered the area. But Wouters believes his brand has a chance: “We are changing our offer and working on diversification.” In Germany or France, between 30 and 40 percent of sales are no longer made in winter. E-mountain bikes have recently become available, and hiking boots will soon be on the market.

A new owner is currently being sought

The company is 115 years old, until 1950 Rossignol also produced everyday clothing, then they specialized in winter sports. The head office is near the French Alps. Skis, bicycles, clothing and shoes are sold under the Rossignol brand, and the company also owns Dynastar (skis), Lange (ski boots), Look (ski bindings), Risport (ice skating) and Kerma (ski poles).

Rossignol: Traditional brand - advertising on old Citroen vehicles.

Traditional brand – advertising on old Citroen vehicles.

(Photo: Rossignol)

The company’s past is turbulent, in the meantime there were serious problems in the early 2000s. In 2005, Rossignol merged with Australian surf company Quicksilver, but it was not a success. A little later, the then boss Bruno Cercley took over with investors, since 2013 the company has belonged to Altor, a financial investor from Norway. After almost ten years, he could now get out. “It may happen that we will get a new owner,” says Wouters. “Our job is to make the brand strong and position it well.”

Who could join is open. Competition in the industry is tough, and the ski market has been in decline for decades. Fewer and fewer people go skiing, and many no longer buy skis themselves but rent them on vacation. The Völkl and K2 brands are now also owned by a financial investor. Salomon and Atomic, along with other sports goods companies such as Arcteryx and Peak Performance, belong to the Finnish Amer Group, which was taken over by the Chinese in 2019. Rossignol is independent.

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