Airwalk Forms New Holding Company, Tare7

Airwalk International LLC, the holding company of the Airwalk, Genetic, and Ripzone brands, announced January 9 it has formed a new holding company to oversee its brands, Tare7 (pronounced “tear-EH seven”).

The move, according to Tare7 President and CEO Bruce Pettet, will give each brand–existing and future–the infrastructure it needs to flourish. “We really feel that by doing this it provides the platform for us to not only create great product, but to execute and get it out there to our retail partners so that they can grow with us,” says Pettet.

The name change from Airwalk International LLC to Tare7 lets the company acquire brands without placing them under the Airwalk name. “It’s clear that Airwalk can’t mean everything to everyone, but there can be a very authentic product-driven, marketing-driven, action-sports brand focused on our ‘core sports. So if you said to me, ‘Is there another segment in this industry that we want to go after?’ then, yeah.” So is this a signal that the company’s in acquisition mode? “There’s an opportunity over time for other brands to become part of our portfolio,” affirms Pettet. “But first we have to execute better. We have things that we’re still working on, but when you look at a twelve to 24-month time frame we think there’s a whole bunch of opportunity for us within this industry. And the whole idea is to bring them in and keep them focused on what the brand is meant to be.”

Before Tare7 buys out other brands, Pettet says the company will focus first on fine-tuning its existing brands that includes its license to Ripzone outerwear, which it acquired this fall in an alliance with Ripzone parent company RMP. The agreement gave the Toronto, Canada-based company the exclusive license for Airwalk and Genetic footwear, apparel, and snow hardgoods north of the border. In return, Tare7 has exclusive license in the U.S. for Ripzone brand for footwear, apparel, and snow apparel.

Today’s announcement is the latest in a long list of moves Airwalk has made over the past year to revamp its image and rekindle enthusiasm for the company at both the wholesale and retail level. In just over a year Airwalk has moved corporate headquarters (from Pennsylvania to Golden, Colorado), hired a slew of new management (including Pettet from Brooks Sports in July 2000), launched its core skate-shoe brand Genetic, and has opened up its own design-development center in Puson, South Korea.

Pettet says all the changes are creating positive momentum for each of Tare7’s properties. “We’ve made huge, huge progress in terms of our product,” he says, adding that the design center has been a huge step forward in streamlining the production process from prototype to store delivery.

Airwalk Vice President of Marketing Linda Nielander is also positive about the company’s latest offerings: “Our fall ’01 lines are our best yet. Both the Airwalk and Genetic product lines focus on our core market and bring authentic, high quality, technical product to our consumer.”

The Tare7 concept is Pettet’s brainchild. “Tare” is a derivative of the Latin word “notare” meaning “brand,” and the “7” encompasses the seven components of the business model that create brand synergy and a growth platform for each brand. The “e” is emphasized to focus on Tare7’s core purpose: “giving great brands the opportunity to be extraordinary,” says Pettet.

Whether or not retailers will buy into the new moniker and mantra remains to be seen, but Tare7 has the confidence and enthusiasm to do the impossible: to execute a dramatic turnaround in this industry.

“Tare7 came from a passion to make strong niche brands,” says Pettet. “We don’t have any want for any of our brands to be this mega-brand kind of thing. We want to be true to who they are, and this provides a platform to do that. And frankly, that’s what the consumer wants.”