With the ink barely dry on his acquisition of Easton Cycling, Chris Tutton took a few minutes to talk about how the wheel and component brand will integrate with his other company, Race Face.
Tutton signed the purchase agreement last Friday with BRG Sports, formerly Easton-Bell Sports, to become the majority owner of Easton Cycling, which made up just 5 percent of BRG’s action sports related revenue. BRG owns Bell, Riddell and Giro, and already sold Easton’s baseball/softball division earlier this year.
Tutton, an independent sales rep for Easton for the past seven years, is now majority owner of Easton Cycling and Race Face, a company he and other investors bought out of bankruptcy back in 2011. Tutton said he intends to run the brands separately with some shared admin staff, but different marketing, graphics and engineering teams. Easton’s engineering group and the wheel service and testing center will move into a new building in Scotts Valley, California, and marketing will move up to Race Face’s headquarters in Vancouver, British Columbia.
No jobs will be lost in the process, and Tutton said Easton would be hiring about a half-dozen new employees in Vancouver.
Initially, the product lines will stay the same, he added, with Race Face’s strengths falling more toward drivetrains and Easton’s toward wheels. Half of Easton’s business remains on the road side, while Race Face is focused solely on mountain products.
There is some crossover, particularly with mountain-bike cockpit components, where both brands market a range of products for all-mountain and gravity riding–Easton with its Havoc and Haven bars and stems and Race Face with the Atlas and Turbine lines.
“The offerings are similar, but they’re nowhere near the same,” Tutton said. “…I’ve been selling both for three years; it’s very possible to sell the two lines together.”
While each brand has specific strengths, Tutton said neither should be pigeon-holed into one category.
“We’re going to let the engineering teams flow. Clearly Race Face is bred from the North Shore and Easton’s background is engineering in California. Just by area alone, you’re going to get a different mix of product. East is more XC, Race Face is freeriding by the nature of where we live and where we develop product.”
Most of the changes, at least in the short-term, will be behind-the-scenes and aimed at improving efficiencies in distribution and manufacturing. Tutton said he believes Easton Cycling will once again be able to thrive now that it is outside the slow-moving confines of an $800 million behemoth of a company. Easton was once known as a leader in composite technology, but has suffered from quality issues with its wheels in recent years, and often fell lower on the priority list than its larger siblings, Bell and Giro.
“There are benefits from the innovative, technological and service side,” he said. “We can be much more nimble, more focused and make market decisions much quick than the Bell Sports group can.”