Laura Cusenbary: Smartwool’s location in Steamboat made it special
Dear VF Corp.,
Your press release to move Smartwool from Steamboat popped in my inbox yesterday. I certainly understand cost efficiency and corporate alignment, but this one caught me by surprise.
Smartwool being born and still headquartered in Steamboat was what made it special. The 70 families you are disrupting here and the 12,000 community members that thought of Smartwool as a “locals” brand is what made the business thrive. We may be a small community, but we are mighty.
I have always been impressed with the commitment Smartwool offered employees in terms of work-life balance. Steamboat-based employees have been unique in the crowded outdoor industry field by living and using the brand in their backyard playground through creative outlets like biking to Outdoor Retailer, the “find your mate campaign” at a variety of events and engaging with local nonprofits to volunteer. Even the sample sale was a community event that Steamboat locals celebrated more than black Friday.
This is what made your brand special to me, and even if I thought Point 6 was a better quality sock, I stuck with Smartwool because I have chosen to support my friends and their businesses.
Countless friends got a huge gut punch earlier this week with your decision to relocate them. In a small town, Smartwool is a big economic impactor, diversifying our economy and providing high-paying, high-value jobs. Those jobs are not easy for our community to replace.
Lots of businesses have satellite offices, and you could have left Smartwool in Steamboat … three hours away from your headquarters in Denver, where you could tout this was your “product-testing venue.”
It would be a smart, bold way for this brand to continue to stand out — to be committed to their employees, their wellbeing and their passion for the outdoors. I fear it will be a challenge for Smartwool to continue to stand out and maintain their brand’s integrity and authenticity.
I, along with many other others in our tight-knit community, am deeply saddened with your choice and know you will lose some amazing employees who will elect to not uproot their families and leave this incredible place we call home. As loyal as they have been to your brand, they are more committed to living in the community that has embraced them.
I do believe you have time to change your mind and leave Smartwool in Steamboat. Please choose to continue to make this hometown brand stand out.
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