With a portfolio of brands based in locales ranging from Japan to Chamonix, Marty Carrigan and Global Sales Guys have developed a solid track record when it comes to knowing what foreign crowd-pleasers will make a splash back home. By Doug Schnitzspahn
Most foreign outdoor and ski/snowboards fizzle out in a hurry here in the U.S. The problem is threefold: What’s cool in an overseas market can come off as kooky in trend-centered North American markets. Consumers in different countries often have wildly different needs and tastes. And foreign brands often get caught in the trap of losing control through North American distributors who water down the brand so they often cannot make the type of investment it takes to make it here, even if they bring some crowd appeal with them. Of course, big overseas brands with deep pockets like Salomon, adidas, Helly Hansen, and, more recently, Fjallraven have come to feel like American standards, but what about small brands? How can they hope to make an impact here?
Enter Global Sales Guys, a Denver, Colorado-based rep and brand strategy agency founded by Marty Carrigan in 1998, an ever-smiling gear junkie and former ski racer who loves seeking out obscure, cool stuff in far-off locales. He and his employees have the magic touch when it comes to seeking out brands that excite U.S. consumers.
Global Sales Guy’s overseas client list reads like a bucket-list ski tour. It includes Black Crows Skis and Outerwear from Chamonix, France; Picture Organic Clothing from Annecy, France; Deeluxe Snowboard Boots from Innsbruck , Austria; le bent socks and base layers from Sydney, Australia; Oyuki Gloves and winter essentials from Niseko, Japan; and TSL Snowshoes and Poles from La Clusaz, France.
The secret to this success? It all begins with the retailers. Carrigan and his team work closely with foreign shops to see what brands really have promise with outdoor consumers who have the same basic needs across the planet. Take Black Crows, the ski of choice for the locals in Chamonix’s proving grounds. The skis have become a cult fave here in the U.S. because of the Cham cool factor and because they were built to perform for demanding consumers. Picture Organic turned heads here for its sustainability ethic as well as its French fashion sense. A more recent client, Oyuki hails from ex-pats in the deep-snow promised land of Hokkaido. All of them crushed retail at home before making the jump here. That’s vital for Carrigan’s business.
“We have the privilege to travel the world and meet with specialty retailers,” says Carrigan. “These iconic specialty retailers feed us the newest trends and brands they see emerging in their geographic markets. Our mission is to introduce these brands back to specialty retailers in North America.“ Carrigan’s partners trust his instincts. “The definitely have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to identifying the best retailers for our brand and growing it in the right direction,” says Matt Hampton, the founder of both the Oyuki brand and Rhythm Japan retail store and guide business in Niseko and other Japanese ski towns.
Carrigan has also rethought the way the distribution model works when his rep agency brings a foreign brand to key specialty retailers in U.S. markets. “We have a very unique model: We replace the traditional distributor and we redistribute the distributor margin,” says Carrigan. “We serve all three stakeholders with our modern, result-driven sales model: The consumer demands a global price and more value, the specialty retailer requires more margin, and the brands are faced with rising manufacturing costs. By redistributing the traditional distributor margin, we are able to be contributing team members to the brands we represent for revenue and profitability, while offering higher margins to our specialty retail partners.”
That dynamic keeps Carrigan always on the lookout for the next hot brand. “We are the consumer,” he says, “so we have to find products that excite consumers—because if we sell it to retail, and retail does not sell it to the consumer nobody wins!” Marty Carrigan