There’s been talk of the problems facing Canadian clothing company Quagmire for some time – certainly since well before Christmas when the upstart business went silent. That split has a great deal to do with issues between the company’s two partners – Bobby Pasternak and Geoff Tait, as well as Jaytex, its backer – but it also demonstrates just how hard the apparel business is in a market increasingly dominated by multinationals.
I’ll be clear as crystal – I always liked Quagmire’s founders, especially Tait with whom I shared breakfast with on a regular basis when I was in Toronto. Tait and Pasternak started the business on a wing and a prayer and hit it when Chez Reavie won the Canadian Open wearing their clothes a couple of years after they launched. The pair partnered with Jaytex, a massive Canadian clothing company, and hired a big PR firm. They moved aggressively, but never lost their grassroots appeal. Heck, every writer I know was friendly with the pair (most famously both SCOREGolf editor Bob Weeks and business columnist Rick Young had shirts by Quagmire named after them), which certainly helped grow the business. They were great guys to hang out with – and understood the benefits of being friendly with reporters.
I’ve known about their problems since last fall – but Tait said at the time he was hopeful they’d be resolved, and I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I’m not alone in that regards. But as word spread, Young finally wrote a thoughtful piece on the situation last week.
Young didn’t explicitly say what happened – that Tait and Pasternak had a falling out and it split the business– but that’s certainly at the center of the company’s problems.
However, I wonder if there’s more going on. Last year Quagmire partnered with Arnold Palmer at reimagining the golf legend’s clothing line. It was launched and apparently did well – though they struggled to get the brand into Canada because of legal issues. Regardless, it looked like Quagmire might slide by the wayside as the partners focused on Arnie, which featured modern fabrics and a retro look.
However, that’s now done as well – there’s no Palmer line for the year. And no Quagmire.
Just before Christmas I was in Toronto and had coffee with an industry friend. The friend, who knows the apparel business well, said he felt the golf industry slowdown that occurred in the U.S. in recent years was now hitting Canada. One of the casualties, he said, were Canadian apparel companies, which have seen their sales for 2013 get hammered. There are a number of good Canadian brands still out there – Sligo, which has a deal with Graham DeLaet, and Hollas, which until recently looked after Weir’s brands – but the pressure from the big names – Nike and Adidas, for instance – is really impacting their bottom line.
Tait told SCOREGolf he was hopeful it could be relaunched, but after a year away are buyers going to take the risk? I hope I’m wrong – Tait and Pasternak brought a fresh and vibrant business acumen to the golf business – but I have a feeling we won’t be caught in a Quagmire any time soon.