In yet another senior executive change at Hi-Tec Sports, Peter Lawson, international sales manager, left the British-based outdoor and court sports company in June. The executive has switched to Tula, a British brand of women’s bags that is headed up by Roger Best, who was a former colleague of his at Reebok. Lawson has been replaced by Petr Hrbacek, the Czech executive who has behind Hi-Tec’s brilliant rise in the Czech Republic and in neighboring countries.
Frank van Wezel, Hi-Tec’s owner, bumped into Hrbacek in the early ‘nineties, as he was trying to set up distribution in the Czech Republic. Hrbacek was then a teacher, and he was the only English speaker whom Van Wezel and his prospective partner could find to communicate in those pioneering days. While the planned distribution arrangement faltered, Hrbacek jumped on board and built Hi-Tec into one of the best-selling sports shoe brands in the country. He later headed up Hi-Tec’s subsidiary for Eastern Europe, covering the Czech Republic as well as Hungary and Slovakia. Hrbacek, who moved to England already in June, has been succeeded in Prague by Martyn Linek, his former right-hand man.
Meanwhile, at the end of July, the Hi-Tec management team was reinforced with the arrival of David Jan de Zeeuw, who will steer the largest chunk of Hi-Tec sales - its outdoor and athletic business. Under a new structure introduced earlier this year, the management of the Hi-Tec brand was entirely split from Magnum, the company’s utility footwear brand. The Hi-Tec business was subsequently split into three divisions: in addition to the outdoor and athletics division, one is now responsible for golf and court sports and another one for the British market. De Zeeuw was previously the European general manager of Red Bull, the energy drinks company. He will be based in Leusden, the Dutch sports business center, where Hi-Tec Benelux has a showroom.
The outdoor category apparently continues to outshine other segments at Hi-Tec in terms of growth. The company indicates that its sales have jumped by about 20 percent so far this year and should beat expectations for the full year. Hi-Tec chiefly attributes this to the expansion of its V-Lite technology to several product categories.
In other company news, Hi-Tec has signed a 30-year licensing agreement with Fuijian Taiya Shoes for the Chinese market. The deal covers all of Hi-Tec’s footwear categories and the licensee will come up with an apparel range for the Chinese market. Based near Xiamen, Taiya has many years of experience as a footwear supplier.
On the back of the deal, Taiya will quickly open a sales and marketing office for Hi-Tec in Beijing. This should be followed by a concept store and many more store openings over the next years, with a stated target of 200 stores in 3 years and another 300 stores in 5 years. Hi-Tec should hit Chinese streets in the first half of 2007, with a sales target of 100 million renmimbi (€10m-$13m) within 5 years.