Brasher’s five-year plan

Brasher’s new managing director Marco Ellerker has plans to grow the business in the coming years, while maintaining the brand’s heritage in the hills. David Pittman met up with him to find out more.

Footwear brand Brasher’s new managing director, Marco Ellerker, is a man on a mission; a mission to grow the brand’s position in the UK and diversify into international markets.

These are the headlines from meeting Ellerker at the Pentland Group’s offices in Finchley, North London, but there is much more to be told about his vision for Brasher.

Ellerker took over from Andy Loeber, who left the outdoor brand in April (see SGB Outdoor February 2011 for an exclusive exit interview). Having worked with parent company Pentland Group for a number of years through Lacoste Footwear, including as UK sales director, then vice president with responsibility for international sales and finally regional vice president, as well as five years spent with Reebok, Ellerker has history in the footwear market.

While his role at Brasher is his first foray into the outdoor market, the company’s established workforce, which has strong history in the space combined with his experience from other markets, opens up ‘huge potential’, or so Ellerker says.

His first few months have been busy ones, meeting key buyers and retail partners in the UK, and touring Asia to meet the brand’s manufacturing partners. This has all been part of an effort to understand Brasher, its heritage and build a picture of where it is headed.

“I want everyone working for and with the company to understand why Brasher was created,” Ellerker says. “It’s important to remember where you’ve come from when you’re going forward.”

Taking note of founder Chris Brasher’s desire to design a more comfortable walking boot than those that were on offer in the 1970s, this message will be carried forward with the strapline ‘Live to Walk’, which will become Brasher’s main marketing message, as: “It encapsulates everything the brand is about. The boots are made by walkers for walkers, and delivering a simple yet passionate message to consumers will make the products accessible to more people,” says Ellerker.

To maximise its exposure to growing markets with such products, Brasher’s message will also focus more heavily on outdoor footwear that can be worn every day, such as those suited to lower level walks and travelling. An updated travel range for spring/summer 2012 is designed with a more modern look than traditional walking and hiking boots, although maintaining the functionality of comfort, quality and performance of Brasher’s traditional outdoor shoes.

But, says Ellerker, Brasher will not be forgetting its history in pursuit of new business. “We have a base of loyal customers that we can’t disappoint.

“Hiking is still core and the trade love our boots, so we will maintain and improve our successful collections, such as the Hillmaster and Supalite, to keep our traditional customer base happy. We’ve also added the Kiso, in a new colourway, and are bringing in the Fellmaster for spring/summer 2012, which remains understated, yet modern, with high-quality materials and comfort as standard.

“None of our footwear is designed as fashion products; our origins are the hills and if you love walking in the outdoors they are for you.”

Getting the balance between old and new right is phase one of Ellerker’s five-year plan to develop Brasher. He says this is already proving the case as feedback from the trade has been positive to the way the brand has developed its product range, while it is also introducing new pop-up floor display units carrying the ‘Live to Walk’ message that have been welcomed by the trade.

“The reaction to what we’ve done and are doing has been good, with the market telling us it is what they want to see from Brasher.

“We have developed a five-year plan to grow the brand and to make the Brasher name stronger in the UK outdoor market. We’re also looking to grow into international markets. We are an exclusively British brand, but there are definitely opportunities for a credible British brand such as ours in overseas markets.”

Brasher footwear is being introduced to the Japanese market this summer as a start, with Ellerke hoping this will lead to big business in international markets.

“In five years we’d like to see close to 10 per cent of sales coming from international markets. We need to manage the process carefully and in a considered way to make sure we’re working with the right partners. And although it is a big step, it’s a natural evolution for the brand and there’s no reason we shouldn’t be successful if we clearly position our brand.”