SCARPA®'s People - Steve Roberts, The Mountain Boot, (UK)
"It was only in my final two years of college that I decided to knuckle down and think about my education and future and less about the next climb!"
How did you start to work in the outdoor world?
Aged fifteen I started a Saturday job in an outdoor shop called LD Mountain Centre, this was the original UK retailer to import SCARPA® following a meeting in the Dolomites with Francesco and its founders Gordon Davison and Peter Lockey. Their exclusive import led to them becoming the Original Uk distributor alongside developing their own brand of apparel and backpacks. These guys alongside David Udberg, who went on to introduce SCARPA® to Australia!, became great mentors for me. Those early years in retailer were great - although I only earned £15 per day yet spent £20 on transport and food to get there - it was a fantastic experience. We were the heart of our local climbing and skiing market and we had a phenomenal team of selling machines who have all gone onto great things in our industry. When Gordon and Peter retired, the Parisotto's needed a new team to take SCARPA® forward and I was privileged to be in the right place at the right time!
How the market and the outdoor scene is changed since you have started to work for SCARPA®?
In 21 years it's seen massive change. The market has moved from passionate enthusiasts running shops and businesses, into a much more commercialized world. The Internet has had the most dramatic impact I believe on every function in business and even how we research climbs and share the news. Fortunately, at the technical sector where SCARPA® lies, the balance of authentic end users, fun and professionalism still prevails. The biggest change in the scene itself would not be in the high mountains, but on the climbing side, we have these vibrant gym scenes, where huge volumes of climbers engage, many of which never make it outside on the rock! Conversely the gene pool has been opened and with the availability of training information and guidance, we are seeing young mutants being fast tracked to immense performances. It's a far cry from the apprenticeship I served in climbing!
We know you are a keen climber. Since when you climb?
My parents introduced me to outdoor sports religiously every weekend and holiday from birth!
I began seriously climbing at age five and it dominated my thoughts for most of my childhood. At age eleven I remember really starting to choose the style of climbs and locations for myself. It was only in my final two years of college that I decided to knuckle down and think about my education and future and less about the next climb!
We want a selection of route you climbed that you suggest to try
1 - Tucan Ausente Riglos, Spain, contains a mind blowing 60m pitch with absorbing sequences and big runout between old bolts!
2 - Hasse Brandler North face of Tre Cime di Lavaredo a route finding masterpiece on a huge and foreboding shield of rock, in a truly stunning setting.
3 - Masterclass, Rothley Northumberland, a route put up by the legend Andy Earl, a stunning gritstone wall, with a magical sequence, that seems so impossible until you do it.
4 - I bet he drinks carling black label - Back Bowden Doors UK - a first ascent of mine from 1993 that's unrepeated, that surely needs a repeat from a strong youth now!
5 - Fiesta del biceps - Riglos, Spain, no climber could be truly complete without an ascent of this legendary line!
Do you prefer to climb on spit or on nuts and friends?
I have enjoyed every aspect of climbing and think it's great to mix it up. I often climb my best trad routes with high sports fitness. When I was young I would solo lots of routes, that I wouldn't touch now. In the early years grade and difficulty was everything, but now the most important thing is quality of environment and the people your climbing with, that's the ageing process!
Climbing is more about mind or body?
it's about both and most importantly soul! My best man made a speech at my wedding, addressing my wife, he said
"Always remember, your marrying Steve, because he is a climber and the more he climbs the more you will love him"
It's both a hugely rewarding but also at times frustrating sport. Gravity takes no prisoner and you pay for any lapse in training and over indulgence.
What do you think is the main difference between British and Scottish climbers and Europeans/ Americans/rest of the World?
British climbers suffer a lack of accessible, genuine world class rock, so we have been brought up to enjoy and savor the traditions and history of the climbs and their climbers. I love the satisfaction you can see from visiting alpinist's when they are climbing in terrible conditions on Ben Nevis, waxing lyrical about the history! I do love the crag comradery in areas like Spain where everyone is willing you to send that route and screaming “Venga!”
Have you ever climbed in the Dolomites? Did you like it?
Due to proximity of the SCARPA® factory, the Dolomites has become a favorite venue of mine in recent times. The landscape is a truly special place to climb. I once had an unplanned bivi on the Tre Cime, but the morning sunrise was certainly worth the hunger and cold!
My great friend Kim Miller (CEO of SCARPA® North America) and I shared some great days together here including an ascent of the Comici in bad weather. This resulted in a spicy decent in the dark, with most of SCARPA® panicking they had lost us, meanwhile Kim and I methodically made our way safely down by 11pm and managed to report for a sales meeting at 8.15am the next day in Asolo.
We know you always have long chat with Francesco Parisotto. BUT, he doesn’t speak in English. How is that possible?
An old colleague taught me, that Francesco will always ask between 3-5 questions from the same pool, so I learnt these phrases and some responses. What's great is that in 21 years the dialogue has not changed
"Le vendite sono grandi e abbiamo solo bisogno di più stivali" (the demand is really high and we need more boots!) I recently visited the factory with one of our biggest customers and he asked me how many pairs they bought from us, I think he nearly had a heart attack when I told him and he proceeded to squeeze me very hard and said I needed to really look after them!
Joking aside, I have been very poor in not learning better Italian and a lack of ability to converse more with Francesco and Luigi is a big regret.
What about TMB nowadays? Please introduce to us your Company. How many you are now? Are you happy about your Company?
So we set the business up in 1995, at first I was the only full time employee, we shared and stole manpower and resource. It's been an amazing journey and we now have twenty six employees and a portfolio of world class brands that truly compliment SCARPA®. We have strong markets in outdoor, climbing and skiing. I am very proud of the results and reputation we have built in our market. We have been blessed to have the most amazing footwear brand in the world at the heart of our mission, which combined with the dedication and skills of our team have made an outstanding combination.
What’s the relationship with SCARPA®?
It's family, a bond that is born of an unbelievable passion and commitment from the SCARPA® people. The brand has given us immense support. After all these years I visit the factory and every time feel compelled to push more for these guys. Making the best boots is their life mission and selling them, I guess has become mine! This initially stems from the first generation Parisotto members like Francesco and Luigi and has passed to Cristina, Davide and Sandro and their dynamic and loyal team in all departments. The things this business can do is amazing, they are all incredible people and to grow up alongside them over all these years has been a privilege. I would never have dreamt this was possible when I started selling SCARPA® boots in a retailer on a Saturday morning, all those years ago.
Is true that in U.K. you have “only brown shoes”?
Well, this is a great "myth", sure we sell a lot of brown leather and conservative models, but I would say the UK has become much more color hungry in recent years. Sure we will never be as colorful and stylish as an Italian, but after a recent trip to Colorado, I would say we are embracing color more than the USA!
The funniest anecdote in all this years in SCARPA®
Honestly in 21 years this cannot be distilled into one! There have been so many fantastic moments, so much laughter and humour. Davide knows the funniest moment, which made me laugh out loud for three days, but it's unrepeatable on this forum!
What are the most differences in your opinion between the Italian and the U.K mountain shops and consumers?
At the technical end, perhaps not so much, the biggest difference is that the Uk market has seen huge consolidation and three super groups now control a dominant part of the market. We have lost a large number of the smaller family owned stores from the past. Of course an Italian shop might be a little more colourful, have less brown shoes and be more style led. Conversely a UK retailer is likely to have a strong focus on fitting and service. Right now the UK retailer and consumer is much more engaged with the internet and e-commerce, which is ever fast moving challenge for us all.
Glynn told us about the “president product selection’s”. What it is?
SCARPA's CEO being a stylish guy, with his own R&D room, likes to occasionally commission some unique shoes. We noticed and followed this and I persuaded the R&D team to make us a couple of pairs and in wearing them demand spreads, culminating in us ordering unique production runs for UK consumers and them selling out very fast! Sandro won't be happy he lost his exclusive, but hopefully he is compensated with the extra sales!
Have you never lost your renowned calm working with an Italian client?
Never, but I have lost a lot of hair!