Active and Outdoor Brands Extend their Reach to Capture New Customers.
With hopes of better times ahead in 2021, brands are broadening their horizons. Whether extending into an entry-level product, reaching into a related category or plucking new collaborative partners, the ultimate goal is to keep people moving and harbor brand health. In talking to folks in the industry, we’ve gathered five ways that brands are diversifying to stay dominant.
Build Upon Current, Successful Product
Jenn Kriske started Machines For Freedom (photo above) with the launch of the Endurance Bib, the first cycling bib that both “functioned well on long rides” and didn’t make her “feel atrocious.” The brand married performance with flattering shapes for women, with Endurance Bib sizing ranging from X-small to XXX-large. As a complement to the bib, Kriske set out to launch the Essential Cycling Short in Spring 2020. With typical cycling shorts crafted for beginners and short distances (along with a price conscious consumer), Kriske aimed to create fashion-forward, endurance shorts “to give an indoor cyclist the performance benefits of cycling apparel without sacrificing fashion.” Her team selected a fabric with a high level of moisture wicking and compression. The elastic leg band was replaced with a silicone directly applied to the inside of the fabric to keep the hem from rising. A yoga-inspired waistband was inserted for comfort. The chamois took on a thermos-molded design to look and feel less bulky. And as luck would have it, after being in development for a year, the Essential Cycling Short launch coincided with stay-at-home orders, along with an explosion in Peloton and outdoor bike sales. “We sold out of the short in three weeks and our second shipment sold out in 24 hours,” commented Kriske.
Launch A New Venture
Taking cues from the car industry and sport utility vehicles, former Callaway Golf exec Harry Arnett set out to create “sport utility gear” brand Municipal in October 2019. Like an SUV, garments would be rugged and cool, yet also fitting for a wide range of wearers (think less techy, more versatile). While the idea was still solid in COVID times – “we were already positioned with apparel that could be worn from home (on work calls), but still look stylish,” he said – the April 2020 launch plan had some holes. With USA factories shuttered, Arnett (with co-founders Stephen Levinson and actor Mark Wahlberg) decided “the best approach was to embrace the fact that we’d have to do a phased launch” with an entirely different merchandising plan since product was coming from the USA and overseas in a piecemeal fashion. The result was launching Fall 2020 styles – almost weekly – as they arrived, creating a “wave of excitement for early adopters,” according to Arnett. As a result, customers have latched on to the functionality of the Sport Utility Hoodie with a kangaroo pocket for valuables, Ninja Lined Training Shorts with a pass thru slot for easy phone accessibility and the brand’s best-selling cotton/Modal/spandex blend Enduro Stretch T-Shirt.
Entertain Another Product Category
Ski Brand Spyder kicked off December 2020 by announcing a partnership agreement with Footwear Unlimited to expand its lifestyle assortment with the launch of footwear. The new collection “fuses elements of performance, function and fashion with key models including outdoor, hike, trail, Après Ski, and lifestyle,” according to Wesley Chu, SVP of sports, street and active at Authentic Brands Group, parent company of Spyder. With the addition of footwear, “the customer can experience Spyder all year round,” he added. Spyder will also expand into cycling, running and swimming in 2021, reinforcing the outdoor and mountain DNA of the brand. New categories to be added to Spyder’s ecommerce site include swimwear, eyewear, protective goggles and helmets. During COVID, the brand has increased sales by amping up email marketing efforts tailored to the customer’s specific demographics. Social media efforts have also accelerated.
Explore Entry Level Product
Hiking has been a popular activity during quarantine times. “We’ve seen it go from an outing, to just part of the day,” explained Mark Magruder, senior product line manager for Teva. The brand’s deep dive into the future of hike revealed that new, young “hikers” were wearing inappropriate footwear for their ventures (think Nike Free). Out came Teva’s Gateway, which still “gives the consumer that flexible and lightweight experience while providing the protection and traction one needs on the trails. It was built for consumers new to hiking.” In a time of social distancing, the brand used social media to “support safe ways to get outside,” the exec said, as well as comfy ways to stay inside, with the best-selling Ember Moc. The work from home footwear “wears like a slipper, yet performs like a shoe,” noted Magruder.
Consider a Collaboration
Since 1947, Wrangler has been a leader in Western wear. To adapt to today, the brand recently launched its All-Terrain Gear line with an outdoor focus and licensing partnerships in watches, hats and now, footwear. In a partnership with Twisted X, Wrangler footwear will be produced by Twisted X beginning in Spring/Summer 2021. The licensed line includes men’s, women’s and children’s styles across western, casual, outdoor, work and work/casual categories. Similar to Twisted X offerings, Wrangler footwear will include a focus on sustainable materials including eco uppers and shoe linings, rice husk outsoles and bamboo shoelaces. “We believe we have a responsibility to help the environment and the community we live in and we can’t wait to bring sustainable, quality and comfortable Wrangler footwear to customers,” commented Prasad Reddy, CEO of Twisted X. Douglas Parker, director of licensing at Wrangler, added that “Wrangler has always placed a priority on respecting our environment, and with Twisted X’s remarkable sustainability efforts, we’re optimistic our inaugural venture into the category will be a huge milestone, not only for the brand, but for the entire western community.”