As Merrell hits the three-decade mark, its executives are aiming to double the business, which posted nearly $500 million in sales for 2010. Blake Krueger, president and CEO of Wolverine World Wide Inc., which acquired Merrell in 1997, hasn’t laid out an end date for achieving those results, but he’s not planning on taking his time either.
“The timeframe I have is ‘it’s never fast enough for me,’” Krueger said. “Merrell’s growth right now is accelerating, and we believe it will continue to accelerate in 2011. I’ll be very disappointed if Merrell doesn’t hit $1 billion long before the next 10 years.”
Merrell’s rise can be attributed to many internal strategies, including the continual development of innovative product, the introduction of women’s-specific lasts and its ability to speak through its advertising to both core athletes and casual outdoor enthusiasts. But it was one style — the Jungle Moc — that catapulted the label into the outdoor world’s elite. That style helped propel the brand from $23 million in sales in 1997 to its current standing at nearly half a billion.
Founded in 1981, Merrell has always made product innovation a top priority and, in a sense, the Jungle Moc reaped the benefits of that.
Now, brand execs are banking on new initiatives to continue the label’s ascent. The highly anticipated Barefoot Collection will launch soon, as well as the updated Originals line. A new retail concept is being introduced that focuses on Merrell’s heritage, while also encouraging consumers to embrace an active, outdoor lifestyle. Additionally, a global marketing campaign slated for spring is designed to excite core outdoor enthusiasts, but also appeal to casual hikers, bikers and trail runners. And the brand is also exploring opportunities outside footwear, with a fresh, retooled apparel collection and the addition of outerwear, socks, bags and backpacks.
Here, Footwear News examines the past, present and future of one of footwear’s most inspiring stories.