Is BD too big for its own good?


Original Post
Climb Germany · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 2,510

I don't necessarily have any specific complaints about BD right now, but they seem to have gone crazy on expansion in the last few years. While they originally made real gear, hard goods, they're now doing ropes, a ton of clothing, headlamps, backpacks galore etc.

While plenty of their stuff is good, it seems much of it is not particularly unique. They're just putting out their own versions of existing stuff and not adding real value or innovation in these areas.

At some point, you have to wonder when they'll leave behind a focus on climbing and start doing more lifestyle crap like topo designs, yeti, etc. North Face, Abercrombie and Fitch (originally expedition outfitter) and others have gone this way. Sadly Arc'teryx is goin this way too with their stupid urban stuff and veilance series.

I'm tempted to avoid BD in the future and send my $ towards people who are still focused on their core business/mission like metolius for example. What are everyone else's thoughts?

20 kN · · Hawaii · Joined Feb 2009 · Points: 1,348
SwabianAmi wrote: they're now doing ropes
Where? It's not on their website.
Nat D · · Seattle, WA · Joined Nov 2015 · Points: 740

Ehhh, it's a business like any other. If the gear that I buy from them meets my expectations that drove me to buy it in the first place, I'm cool with that. If their gear I buy starts turning to junk, I'll stop. I try not to make any attachments to brands beyond the pragmatic price-purpose-quality assessment.

Climb Germany · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 2,510

20 kN: Not on the market yet but coming soon. Google around for pics from the latest Outdoor Retailer show.

Rich zz · · california · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 180

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sckUv1g9Ms4

i like that there's no fancy names

Climb Germany · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 2,510

Indeed, it is a business whose primary purpose is making money. And of course at the end of the day, product is most important. It rather seems like a sign that they're losing focus.

For example, most of BD's clothing line are just copies/variations of existing stuff from others. Yes, lots of companies do that. It's not inherently bad. But what'st he point aside from purely money? why not invest in innovation for core products? (the new UL camalots are an example).

Arc'teryx, while they are getting sidetracked with the veilance bullshit, at least are providing real value and innovation with stuff like their harnesses (which are now copied all over) and especially the new shoe line which are different from everything else out there, and above all great to wear.

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25

Black diamond was sold to a conglomerate a few years back. The aspects you mentioned were almost inevitable. I can't say I have seen a diminishing emphasis in their innovative adventure equipment yet but it wouldn't be a surprise if it occurs.

Climb Germany · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 2,510

Didn't realize it been sold like that. Definitely makes more sense now. The question is when they'll be the next North Face whose core market is college girls buying overpriced black fleeces to go with their jeans!

patto · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2012 · Points: 25
SwabianAmi wrote:Didn't realize it been sold like that. Definitely makes more sense now. The question is when they'll be the next North Face whose core market is college girls buying overpriced black fleeces to go with their jeans!
It might not have been private equity as I initially claimed in the above post. (So I edited the post) But I remember when it occurred in 2010 and those who knew details of the purchasing company were predicting these outcomes six years ago.

Historic discussion here:
http://www.rockclimbing.com/cgi-bin/forum/gforum.cgi?post=2332793
Climb Germany · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 2,510

Thanks. Guess I'm very late to the party. I saw this quote at the link you sent

I don't know why you would think that. Rather, I would expect that cutting a few corners, slashing the budget for R&D, and putting more emphasis on selling high-profit generic soft goods would be the quickest way of making the company more profitable on pape...

Damn, they nailed it to the t!

Michael89 · · Doylestown, PA · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 0

BD was acquired by a public company in 2010 (not a conglomerate or a private equity fund), so if you like you can take a look at their SEC filings and see what they've been up to. BD Investor Relations

I was actually a little surprised to see a few things:

They have doubled R&D spending since 2010, from $3.8 million to $7.5 million (maybe why the UL Camalots are so pricey).

Minimal or negative profitability in most years.

They sold Poc and Gregory in 2014 and 2015 (making them actually smaller than they would otherwise be).

Evil CEO only made $311k in 2015 (pretty low for a public company CEO with $150 million in sales)

I'm happy to have them sell as many high margin t-shirts as they can if it means they continue to spend some of that on hardware R&D.

portercassidy · · UT/CO · Joined Nov 2006 · Points: 65

I swear my first rope was a BD rope, back when I was partying like it was 1999.

amarius · · Nowhere, OK · Joined Feb 2012 · Points: 20
Michael89 wrote:BD was acquired by a public company in 2010 (not a conglomerate or a private equity fund), so if you like you can take a look at their SEC filings and see what they've been up to.
Many people say that facts lead to confusion that can only be cleared up by internet rumors.
mattm · · TX · Joined Jun 2006 · Points: 1,390

While there's certainly still room for innovation in climbing hard goods it's going to be very incremental for the most part. People expecting BD (or anyone else for that matter) to blow us out of the water at each OR show are setting themselves up for failure. The market has many quality players all working to tweak or improve on designs so BD is not going to have the market cornered on breakthroughs. Their introductions into different markets are calculated decisions that they can offer something that, while not groundbreaking, offers enough differences to compete in the market and earn sales.

Climbing Goods - Simply not going to see massive changes here for the most part.

Headlamps - While certainly not leading in market tech they make a solid product with features many want. I often point people to BD offerings if they're not a flashlightaholic looking at Zerbralight, Fenix, Thrunite etc

Soft Goods - While I was highly skeptical when they first announced their move into clothing, I've since become a serious convert. While there are certainly a lot of similar designs relative to the other major players I've been highly impressed with the fit/cut of their clothing for me as well as some products that have become "go tos" i.e. the Alpine Start. Many others have gone through a similar conversion from skeptic to believer.

Ropes - Their new line is made by Roca. They had their own line of ropes years ago made by Beal so this is nothing new. I like the simplicity. [It's interesting to note that it looks like TechRock from Spain is bailing on FixeUSA. Roca and BD and the Aliens now handled by 5.10]

Hard Goods are expensive to develop, are a smaller market and have razor thin margins. The diversity allows them to continue in the Hard Goods arena and since their soft good products have been solid offerings, I think BD is a-ok with me. Climbers are hyper sensitive to the idea of "Selling Out" because of cultural history but often over react.

bus driver · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 670

Do you buy a new rack of gear every 1-3 years? Most people don't. But they do buy backpacks, jackets, and skis nearly that often. Their clothes are simple and reliable and use some innovative fabrics that others don't. Some of their lightweight action shells are exactly the right weight with the right breathability in the right places for climbing and alpine persuits. If you thought A5 aid gear was good, black diamond is making it now (north face bought it from middendorf then kept the A5 brand for its t shirts and sold the actual gear portion to BD very quietly).

I'll put my vote in opposition to the OP. BD is one of the few companies that is bringing manufacturing back to America, they share profit with their employees / employee owners, and provide 3 shifts of manufacturing jobs to people in Utah. Yes they are big but they would otherwise be long gone after 20 years in this industry if they had not grown into broader markets. You can only sell so many cams, nuts, and pitons to a relatively small market. People can buy a jacket from them just because it's cold. You kind of have to know how to climb to give them any money for climbing gear. A lot more people will get cold and need a jacket than learn to climb this year.

Andy Laakmann · · Bend, OR · Joined Jan 2001 · Points: 2,000

The rash of recalls recently has been pretty disheartening.

Look at this link. They were previously having a recall every few years... and suddenly they had seven in two years.

http://blackdiamondequipment.com/en_US/recalls.html

Some of them are just absurd, such as sewn slings with masking tape joining the ends and not being sewn ( warranty.bdel.com/RunnerRec... ) or locking biners with the locking mechanism installed upside down. These are absolute Q/A failures that demonstrate an organizational problem IMO...

I know they've moved production back to the U.S., and I'm not sure if these recalls were from items manufactured in China or the U.S. But regardless, many of these recalls are all very sloppy work if you read through them.

I've always been a BD fanboy, but I've absolutely lost some faith with the recalls.

Jon H · · MD/DC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 123

BD isn't even that big. Petzl, also headquartered in SLC, is significantly bigger. Whether you go by turnover, # of employees, depth of product line, whatever, Petzl is still several times larger than BD.

And as Michael89 deftly pointed out, most people's internet rumors and assumptions are flat out incorrect.

I love most of BD's products, their outstanding customer service (ever try buying an individual replacement part like a crampon toe bail from Petzl? It's like pulling teeth), solid warranty, and yes, their innovation. Like every company, they've had their missteps (first 3-4 years of stainless steel crampons... ugh), but I'm a big fan of what they're doing and how they're doing it.

As for the recalls, every single one was from the new factory in SLC. Turns out that American workers don't have their shit together like the Chinese. Ths counts as another one of those missteps - but they handled it publicly, QUICKLY, and efficiently. Even more important, how many of the defective items made it out into the consumer market? 2 or 3? It was a growing pain in an effort to bring all manufacturing back onshore and I applaud them for it. There is no company I'm aware of who hasn't experienced similar growing pains. But many of them handled their challenges in a MUCH less satisfactory manner.

Super Fluke · · Earth · Joined Mar 2015 · Points: 186

The problem with any growing company, in order to compete they need to drive production cost down, thus manufacturing more and more in China and other cheap alternatives. Almost all products BD produces that are not metal are made in china and most of it is junk, especially there ski's. Then only quality products BD makes are made in USA.

Brian Prince · · morro bay, ca · Joined Mar 2010 · Points: 1,125

BD fanboy here. Their pants are the best I've ever had. Don't see why they can't do it all

Jon H · · MD/DC · Joined Nov 2009 · Points: 123
Super Fluke wrote:The problem with any growing company, in order to compete they need to drive production cost down, thus manufacturing more and more in China and other cheap alternatives. Almost all products BD produces that are not metal are made in china and most of it is junk, especially there ski's. Then only quality products BD makes are made in USA.
Seeing as BD has been manufacturing EVERYTHING in China for nearly a decade your post makes absolutely no sense. They only brought manufacturing back to the USA literally a couple of months ago.
Marc801 C · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Feb 2014 · Points: 65
SwabianAmi wrote:I don't necessarily have any specific complaints about BD right now, but they seem to have gone crazy on expansion in the last few years. While they originally made real gear, hard goods, they're now doing ropes, a ton of clothing, headlamps, backpacks galore etc.
This is nothing new for BD and certainly not just the last few years or a result of their being acquired. Have you forgotten the history of the company?
Before they became BD they were Chouinard Equipment. That company created a clothing line and eventually spun it off into a little brand called Patagonia. Their canvas "Stand Up Shorts" were a staple in Yosemite in 1980. I was wearing Chouinard rugby shirts with my Sears white painters pants in 1978. I bought Chouinard branded ropes in the 1980's. They also sold Beal ropes. Bought one from them in 2004. I have a Chouinard/BD pack from the mid 90's lurking somewhere in my basement. I think I recall the first BD headlamp sometime in the early 2000's.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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