Niels Mikkelsen has been the CEO and reformer of the Danish corporation IC Companys since 2008 and in that time has given his eleven labels new structures. First he focused on the fashion brands and now for the past twelve months the flagship label Peak Performance is being given a remake.

The Peak Performance brand has gained unique status within Copenhagen-based IC Companys for several reasons: As the primary revenue driver, the label was never subject to as much criticism as the other labels and on the other hand as a ski and outdoor label its market structure is completely different from those of the other pure play fashion labels (see inset). The company headquarters being in far-away Stockholm presumably compounded its special status. But now all that is over. In January Niels Mikkelsen announced a profit warning for the entire group. Provisional earnings figures indicated that operating profit in the first half of fiscal 2011/12 (June 30) would be down by 45% to DKK146 million (€19.6 million). Due to continued difficult market conditions the company anticipates that this scenario could continue in the double-figure region. Peak Performance also failed to perform well, a fact which cannot be attributed soles to warm weather, tight consumer spending or the financial crisis.

“Peak Performance is a diamond in the rough,” says Mikkelsen with excitement in his voice. Now it only needs the right polish –  although major changes have already been carried out in the past: The introduction of the new, clean P logo and phasing out the old Indian logo, the up-trade and streamlining of the colleciton, focusing on the casual collection, which has made the label so distinctive among other sports apparel brands internationally. Apparently, all that was not enough. In October of last year, CEO Jonas Ottosson, who had been with the company since 2000, resigned from Peak Performance. In the meantime all brand management personnel was replaced. Ottosson will be replaced by May at the latest by Henrik Bunge, who was most recently Managing Director with the Adidas Group Nordic. “Bunge is from the sport business and a passionate athlete himself,” says Mikkelsen. “He is somebody who knows the business in detail and can perform. That was important to us.” Mikkelsen wants clear strategies which fit well with the brand philosophy. If in the past there was a strong emphasis on golf, for example, now there will be a stronger focus on alpine – the company’s roots. The sponsoring agreement with the famous Hahnenkamm ski race in Kitzbühel, Austria and thus its return to the ski sport heritage is one step in this direction.

“We wanted to do a little of everything and focused too strongly on retailers and lost sight of our end consumer,” adds Mikkelsen.

“However, we need a clear statement and have to know who our customer is.” For the collection this means there will be fewer upscale models, fewer clean visuals, a smaller collection, and, most of all, more structure. In place of countless possibilities he wants to offer the retailers solutions and concentrating on the looks which are the strongest. These designs should not only be reliably and punctually shipped but also be meaningfully integrated within the label’s overall marketing. “Customer purchasing behavior has changed quite dramatically,” Mikkelsen explains. “At sporting goods stores especially shopping is still regarded from a very masculine perspective. That’s where products are sold – but the fashion industry is where looks are sold. And this is the direction all purchasing behavior is going, including shopping by men.” A way of thinking which runs into problems especially because the casual collection is sold at specialist sports apparel outlets. Focusing on the label's own retail and optimizing the collection's presentation are thus important steps toward more profitability. “The future for retail is to tell a good story, not making a product available.”

There are roughly 90 Peak Performance stores around the world some of which are operated by the label itself and partly run as franchises. A new store is just opening in Kitzbühel. Mikkelsen, who prior to joining IC Companys was Nordic Country Manager for Esprit for ten years, wants to offer improved processes to these stores as well as retailers who want to continue to grow with the brand.

IC Companys was founded in 2001 through the merger of the companies Carly Gry and Inwear. Today it’s portfolio includes Jackpot, Cottonfield, Peak Performance, Part Two, Matinique, Inwear, Saint Tropez, By Malene Birger, Tiger of Sweden, Soaked in Luxury, and Designers Remix Collection. In the 2010/11 annual report Peak Performance accounted for approximately one-fourth of Group revenues.

Revenues in Q1 2011/12 came to DKK1.175 million (Q1 2010/11: DKK1.216 million). Compared to the previous year wholesale revenues dropped to DKK813 million (DKK842 million) and retail sales revenue fell to DKK362 million (DKK374 million).