“The brand evolved around innovation,” explains Andy. “As Chris Brasher was walking on the roof of Wales in traditional walking boots he experience discomfort and had to take them off. He said, “Why can’t walking boots be as comfortable as training shoes?” At the time he was involved in the distribution of New Balance and Reebok, so he took it on himself to look at the reasons why walking boots were so uncomfortable. Chris then developed a lightweight product with a membrane construction to deliver waterproof performance – something the marketplace had never seen before through innovative technology brown leather boots were made lightweight. A lot of the products that he introduced are still running and are the benchmark products of the industry today.”
SGB: How are you moving the brand forward?
AL: The overall objective is to make the brand appeal to a broader consumer base, while retaining the loyal customer we already have. To do this we have aggressively targeted the fabric membrane boot market, the massive multi active market and have led the way in Outdoor Lifestyle product. Many of the new Outdoor products have a more modern design, use more colours and have more overt technology. The key ingredient is still the performance, however, and we never lose sight of the lightweight ‘out of the box’ comfort that the brand was founded on. Within Outdoor Lifestyle, we updated our core collection and introduced a new all day – everyday collection. This product retained many outdoor features resulting in fantastic comfort for use both off and on the hills. To drive these new initiatives we invested heavily in marketing. Our new headline campaign of “What’s your playground?” incorporated a modern look, new circulations and ground breaking in-store support.
SGB: Tell us more about the products…
AL: Our lifestyle is called AT:20, which relates to Adventure Travel and the pareto theory of 80% of product being worn for general purposes and 20% on rugged terrain. Our unique points of difference on lifestyle product are foot form lasts to promote a natural walking motion and generous fit to allow the toes to align naturally. Memory foam for a personalised fit and feel, a new technical footbed and Gore membrane to cater for the UK weather – which happens in cities as well as on hills !! All these features result in incredible comfort.
The retail reaction, and the consumer feedback has been fantastic, and we grew this collection after launch by 160% over the last four months of the year – we now have around 10 core styles which represents a real dual gender collection. This product also gives our Outdoor retailers incremental business, as it is maximising the potential of the Outdoor consumer they have captured.
SGB: What’s new for Spring/Summer 09?
AL: Our key objectives remain consistent with last year – we have, however, learnt that ‘less is better’ – we have developed less product but have undertaken extensive research to enable the product to be ‘best in class’. This approach has ensured that we can target key brand and market opportunities and has proved very successful.
SS09 key development has returned to our roots of lightweight performance under the umbrella of Mountain Sports – this collection includes a trekking boot, multi active trail shoe and open mesh multi function product.
We are especially proud of the trekking boot – Lithium GTX. This boot epitomises all the brasher values of durability, support, excellent traction and cushioning all enclosed in great cosmetics. The boot’s extensive testing results are outstanding and at a weight of 1250gms it is the lightest, as well as the best performing product in that category!
SGB: And leather?
AL: Our search for improvements never stops on our core leather products. We re-introduced leather linings on the Hillmaster last year and we have a continual improvement plan in place. This could mean improvements to the tongue configuration or new foam enhancements as ongoing improvements in our search for ultimate comfort.
SGB: Is there anything else new for you?
AL: Within Mountain Sport, Helium, the multi-active trail shoe goes back to the Chris Brasher roots – an Olympic gold medallist and active casual runner. Again the product combines great performance credentials with modern cosmetics. This shoe, and the multi-function open mesh model, Neon, are perfect for today’s active consumer, but are equally at home with a pair of jeans for everyday lightweight comfort use.
Our search for comfort is even expressed in our new sandal collection, where we have used memory foam in our footbeds. These examples hopefully confirm our ongoing search to gain a clear point of difference through living the brand values.
SGB: Where are you heading next with your product developments?
AL: AW09 will see updates and improvements to the AT:20 collection, and SS10 will see some more targeted updates in both lifestyle and outdoor that will lead the industry – we are also very aware of our environmental responsibilities and are looking to develop an environmentally friendly lifestyle collection.
In AW we will also drive the brand to a much wider consumer base through adverts in the travel sections of national press – we will use The Mail, The Times and The Telegraph in a move that will create demand on both the High Street and Outdoor Markets.
SGB: How would you summarise the brand’s present position?
AL: The brand is in great health – in difficult trading conditions I believe that the brands that stay true to their values and produce marketing, product and service of the highest level will succeed – brasher are benefiting from these principles and we are committed to supporting our retail base through this period.
We are excited and confident and looking forward to the challenges ahead.