Bataleon Snowboards Turns 20 as U.S. Business Gains Steam
Bataleon and parent Low Pressure Studio still field questions almost weekly about being a snowboard company based out of Amsterdam. The answer has been about perfected at this point as Bataleon celebrates 20 years in business this snow season.
“‘Why are you not in Innsbruck, Salt Lake, California or Hossegor between the other action sports brands?’” Low Pressure Studio co-founder and co-owner Dennis Dusseldorp said of the questions he often gets. “I’m sure that in the early days it could have been better finding staff and connecting with the industry, but I’m also 100% sure that our brand would not have had the same aesthetics as we have now. The art, the city vibes, the multicultural environment, the food from all over the world, the liberal mindset is what influences our decision-making on a daily basis. Right now, we have no problems finding staff and everybody loves Amsterdam.”
For Bataleon, being set off from some of the more popular hubs for snowboard companies has come with benefits to the brand and business: it’s been outperforming expectations the past few seasons. And, while the current snow season has only just begun, Bataleon’s already seen an uptick in web traffic, reorders, and early requests for deliveries from retailers, according to Dusseldorp. Bataleon, now in roughly 350 doors globally, also continues to grow beyond snowboards, with bindings now out and boots slated for launch this year.
While the U.S. serves as the largest growth market for Bataleon, other regions have also been performing steadily. Even in Europe, where the business stumbled over strict lockdowns and resort closures, it was able to bounce back in a strong way, according to Dusseldorp. He added the business in Europe is now performing better than it was pre-COVID.
“Bataleon has been a top performer for us year over year since pre-COVID days and on their current trajectory, I expect this to continue,” said James Robertson, hardgoods buyer for Evo in Canada.
Bataleon’s Goliath, Evil Twin, Distortia, and Push Up are driving the demand, according to Robertson. However, other board styles such as Whatever, Party Wave, and Surfer help add some “flair to the mix,” he said.
The buyer went on to point out the brand has been resonating across customer types and Bataleon’s entry into bindings has been gaining traction.
“In short, cool graphics with legit, tangible tech create fun stories to sell and buy and it’s evident in our numbers,” Robertson said.
Joseph Notaro, Evo merchandising director based in Seattle, echoed the comments about the brand’s successes.
“The Triple Base Technology story and unique graphics have been staples in helping Bataleon stand out in a crowded space,” Notaro said. “Bataleon is all about having fun and it comes through with their products and marketing, and that really resonates with the consumer.”
Staying the Course
“It’s unbelievable how good things are,” Dusseldorp said of Bataleon’s successes, specifically in the U.S.
It’ll ride that momentum, with festivities for the 20-year anniversary set to roll out as the snow season gets underway.
Plans call for the release of several anniversary products, including a book on the brand’s history due out in the winter. Bataleon’s first full-length movie is also set for a winter release. An anniversary party in Amsterdam with more than 400 staff, sales reps, distributors, and retailers invited is scheduled for Nov. 9 to celebrate the milestone and those who helped get the brand to where it’s at today.
There’s plenty to reflect on, particularly the brand’s early days just getting off the ground.
“One of the most challenging things we faced in the beginning is that we were just a little bit too different than most other brands: Having all of our boards made with 3D shapes in an era where everybody only spoke about rocker,” Dusseldorp recalled. “Being from Europe explaining that is the better way to shape a snowboard was, for a lot of industry insiders, a bit too much.”
Even with Dusseldorp and co-founder Danny Kiebert having experience as snowboarders, “being Dutch with no ‘name’ in U.S. snowboarding was not helping when trying to break into the U.S. market,” Dusseldorp said.
He likened the early days to the feeling of hitting a brick wall again and again. Bataleon’s team, at one point during a trade show, even entered the show floor wearing T-shirts that said, “Sorry, But We are From Europe.”
The two clearly have a sense of humor, with “Smile, It’s Snowboarding” as their tagline, but the pressure to change their product and business model was very real in the beginning.
“We have been told to make ‘normal,’ flat – or at that time, rocker – boards, make the boards look like this brand or that brand, or to sign a big name U.S. pro,” Dusseldorp said. “There have been moments where we thought to just make the boards less expensive to get a spot in the shop or to offer better terms than other brands. We decided not to do it, stick to what we believe in, and sit it out.”
That’s paid off in the long run for Bataleon, even if it took convincing one rider at a time to join the team and slowly build the group of early adopters.
“We patiently built a company with dedicated and like-minded staff all believing in our products and story,” Dusseldorp said. “The key lesson, and my advice to anyone trying to build a company (and) brand, would be to hire like-minded people that believe in your story, products, mission, and to let your ‘feeling’ decide and not someone’s resume.”
Scaling Bataleon Via Synergies
Bataleon and Low Pressure Studio’s successes have managed to turn heads in the market.
The Nidecker Group in 2018 bought a majority stake in Low Pressure Studio. At the same time, Nidecker – run by brothers Henry, Xavier, and Cedric – acquired Rome SDS, a Vermont-based snowboard company that joined the Low Pressure Studio platform post-acquisition.
“What we planned…has come to fruition,” Dusseldorp said of the synergies created following the Nidecker investment. “We have been able to improve operational efficiency, while we kept the brands run independently. We exchange information, we purchase materials together, share ERP, and other software.”
Meanwhile, marketing, creative, and sales remain separate and in Amsterdam for Bataleon, Vermont for Rome, and Switzerland and Truckee for Nidecker.
“It’s funny that we are so close as brands, but that we always try to better each other,” Dusseldorp said. “(It’s) a bit like brothers. You look after each other, but you do want to be faster, stronger, (and) smarter.”
Dusseldorp visits Nidecker’s offices in Switzerland every few weeks to brainstorm and strategize, hinting that more is to come in future seasons that will further emphasize the relationship with Nidecker and “will be a testament to our partnership.”
In fact, some of Bataleon’s successes can be chalked up to learnings from sister brand Rome, which had a more robust U.S. business when it joined the Low Pressure Studio platform. Rome helped open a much larger dealer base, sales programs, learnings about pricing, and other product categories to Bataleon which, around 2019, had a much larger business in Europe than in the U.S.
Rome’s addition also helped Bataleon expand into other categories beyond boards, including bindings and the upcoming launch of the five-style boot collection this winter. Bataleon’s boots will double to 10 models come next season.
“(They are) all categories we always wanted to do but had no experience with prior to adding Rome to our portfolio,” Dusseldorp said.
Low Pressure Studio’s Growth
Bataleon’s rise is also buoying Low Pressure Studio’s overall growth.
The last time SES spoke with Dusseldorp in 2019, the Low Pressure Studio workforce was around 18 people. Today it counts 62 workers, with some of the newer hires hailing from companies such as Burton, K2, Ride, Red Bull, and Adidas.
Meanwhile, other brands in the Low Pressure Studio portfolio are also keeping busy.
Rome is set to launch its newest collection in mid-November during its New York sales meetings. At that time, a full rebrand will be unveiled with new boards, expanded binding offerings, and boot redesigns.
Sister brand Lobster is also set to unveil something new to market soon, although Dusseldorp didn’t provide many details outside of teasing it is “something that will turn some heads for sure and get some competing brands a tiny bit nervous.”
Dusseldorp, when asked if Low Pressure Studio would consider adding more brands to the mix, said “sure,” but they’re in no rush to do so.
“When we really feel that it is complementary and has a good story, we will always be open to adding brands,” he said. “We, however, have got to be feeling it…. and it’s something we would like to see our own kids be stoked on and not something that we do just for revenue.”
Plus, there’s plenty happening on the product side at Bataleon and its sister brands to keep the team just as busy as it’s been the past two decades with the constant stream of new tail concepts, new shapes, and new models, all while continuing to gain market share and rider converts.
“What’s funny though,” Dusseldorp said in reflecting on the momentum around the brand, “is that at trade shows some people come up to me and say, ‘Wow, that Bataleon brand came up quick.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, thanks. It’s been a quick 20 years.’”
Kari Hamanaka can be reached at email@example.com.