Continuing a process that began in 2005 when it took over the distribution in France, Italy and most of Spain, shortly after becoming member of VF Corporation’s Outdoor Coalition, Reef has acquired it in the Canary Islands, Switzerland, the U.K. and Ireland, the Benelux countries and Germany. The new status will be effective already this spring in the Canary Islands and in the autumn in the other countries.

In all these cases, for a smooth transition, Reef EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) is re-hiring or negotiating to re-hire their former sales managers or agents who were handling the brand before. On the other hand, Reef’s sales manager for Spain, Borja Abasolo, is taking on responsibility for France as well in a bid to strengthen its position in Europe’s biggest surf market. Currently, Spain is the biggest European market for the brand, followed by the U.K. and Italy.

Reef EMEA is saying good-bye to the two oldest distributors of the American brand in Europe, both of which had been signed up 25 years ago. One is Manuel Guerra & Hijos a member of Intersport with more than 20 stores in the Canary Islands. The other one is the Water Sports Company of the U.K., which has also been selling O’Neill wetsuits and other products. The company was covering also Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany through a network of agents who are migrating to Reef EMEA.

The 20-year-old distributor of Reef in Switzerland has also been recently with Quiksilver, creating a potential conflict of interest following the recent development of a line of clothing and accessories under the Reef brand name.

As a result of these changes, the proportion of sales handled by distributors in the territory of Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) will decline from 60 to 30 percent this year.

While Reef EMEA is boosting its staff in connection with its more direct business model,.Reef is laying off 42 employees at its world headquarters in Carlsbad, California, especially in its apparel department. Apparently, the layoffs are mostly related to a difficult market situation in the U.S., where the action sports segment has been suffering heavily from the recent economic crisis. Without quoting specific figures, Jean-Philippe Torgue, vice president and general manager of Reef EMEA, is targeting flat sales for 2009 in spite of the switch to a direct distribution mode in several countries. European sales grew by about 10 percent in 2008, after doubling in 2007 as a result of the newly acquired distribution in France, Italy and Spain, combined with the introduction of new product lines.

Partly in view of the difficult economic situation, Reef EMEA has no plans to add any more single-brand retail stores after its first opening in Bordeaux last year. On the other hand it has launched a non-transactional consumer-oriented website, www.europe.reef.com, to inform about its products, its riders, events and news. An interactive online marketing campaign will start up in Europe in April, promising “incredible” prizes for the winners.