Johnson Drops Hammer

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While they’re designed to strengthen their paddlesports’ brands’ position in the market, in a sign of increasingly tough financial times, Johnson’s watercraft division has made a few sweeping changes to its workforce in the past few months, from the top down. After longtime employee and paddler Murray Weis was let go as part of a general employee-reduction program last winter, additional cutbacks have been made this spring.

In March, Mark Leopold, group vice president of Johnson Outdoors’ watercraft division, found himself out of a job after his position had been merged with that of Kelly Grindle, group vice president of Johnson Outdoors’ marine electronics division who is now vice president of Johnson Outdoors’ marine electronics and watercraft businesses.

In further streamlining, in early May the axe fell on longtime watercraft general manager Nando Zucchi, watercraft marketing director Chris Heffernan, as well as longtime employees Rob Dorcas and Jackie Davison, with Scott Forristall appointed Johnson’s new Business Director – Watercraft. In addition, Sara Knies has rejoined Johnson Outdoors as Watercraft – Senior Marketing Manager, responsible for all Johnson Outdoors’ paddlesport brands.
While unable to comment on the cutbacks, Zucchi said they weren’t “totally unexpected,” and that he’d like to remain in the Washington area. “I’ve got a good network up here and would prefer to stay in Bellingham,” he said, adding that he loves the paddling industry.
“We’re realigning Johnson Outdoors Watercraft marketing and sales groups to better focus our organization against the primary goal of building our partners’ and customers’ business,” said Forristall in a memo to reps. “This is part of a concerted effort underway to transform Johnson Outdoors Watercraft for greater success in the future. Specifically, we are simplifying processes and streamlining communication channels to enable us to direct resources toward efforts we know drive sales.

With a long history in the paddling industry, Forristall will oversee new product development, marketing and international Watercraft businesses, and will also work with the sales team on strategy and planning.

On the sales front, North America Sales Director Dave Duffin and Dan Kuenzi, sales director for large and international accounts, will lead the Watercraft sales teams, in addition to their current responsibilities for our Marine Electronics Group. “As a result of this consolidation of sales responsibilities, our Watercraft sales team will grow to include a team of regional sales managers who will now be responsible for all Watercraft and Marine Electronics brands and will manage all sales reps within their territories,” wrote Forristall. “Simply, we are leveraging one large sales force against both businesses, all brands.”

Forristall further admitted that the new organizational structure resulted in the elimination of some positions, and thanked those affected for their many contributions to the business.
“We believe this simplified, streamlined organization will enable us to continue to invest in new products, targeted marketing and point-of-purchase programs that drive sales, and provide an opportunity to expand the reach of both Watercraft and Marine Electronic brands beyond their traditional channels. Our goal and commitment is a seamless transition for our business partners and a stronger, more competitive market presence for Ocean Kayak, Necky, Old Town, Extrasport, Carlisle, Minn Kota, Humminbird, Cannon and Geonav brands.”