How G.H. Bass & Co. Is Going Back to Its Roots as an Outdoor Shoe Brand

G.H. Bass & Co. Fall 2017
A fall 2017 G.H. Bass & Co. lifestyle image.
G.H. Bass & Co.

Consumers have long associated G.H. Bass & Co. with affordable dress-casual footwear. But the brand has switched gears and is once again tapping into its outdoor roots.

“We were founded in 1876, and we brought the Weejun into the United States marketplace in 1936. The years in between, we were very much an outdoor brand,” said Cory Haberman, VP of footwear design and product development.

Haberman explained that G-III Apparel Group Ltd., which purchased Bass in 2013, wanted to position it as outdoor-focused and produce shoes with technology built for performance. As part of the new push, Bass introduced the Propel comfort technology in spring ’16.

“We divided the stride anatomy up into three different zones for the way the foot works in motion and how it impacts the ground,” said Shane Ward, design director for men’s footwear and women’s performance footwear.

To improve the innovation’s comfort, Bass adds 360-degree memory foam insoles to shoes with Propel. When it launched, Propel was featured in a slim range of looks, with more styles for men than women. Bass offered walking styles for both genders, with additional trail shoes and hikers for men.

G.H. Bass & Co Propel Trail Hiker

G.H. Bass & Co Propel Trail Hiker (Men’s), $69.99; ghbass.com

Moving forward, the company will expand its Propel range. In the fall, the brand will release the men’s Boulevard Collection, boasting performance-inspired lifestyle looks executed with its new technology.

Bass also will introduce Propel hikers and trail shoes for women.

Highlights for the spring include the Boulevard Lite collection for men, inspired by cupsole sneakers and a knit-upper lace-up walking shoe for women, the Propel Knit Wingtip. Haberman admitted convincing consumers that Bass is on par with today’s top brands in the marketplace is challenging. “We have to re-engage with the consumer and reintroduce ourselves to the consumer in the outdoor world,” Haberman said. “We’ve taken a softer sell to it through PR and subtle marketing, but moving forward, it’s going to be more of the true face of the brand.”

But Haberman believes the breadth of Bass’ footwear separates itself from the competition. “There are a lot of technical brands out there, but what we felt was missing was a brand that bridged technical into lifestyle and completed the full closet of our male and female consumers,” he explained.

One retail partner convinced the outdoor image will resonate is Evine, which sells its footwear online and through its TV network. The Evine-Bass partnership launched in spring ’17. “We’re big into comfort, athleisure with that outdoor vibe to it, right now,” said Eddie Miller, senior buyer of footwear, handbags and accessories at Evine. Haberman said the brand will make an effort to align itself with top outdoor specialty accounts and department stores.