“[Other brands] are not focused on women the same way Ryka is,” said Deb Krivelow, SVP and GM of the Caleres-owned label, founded in 1987. “They’re focused on the consumer as a whole; they want to hit the men, women, kids. We’ve been focused on empowering her in all areas of her life for 30 years, and you can feel that when you get our shoes on your feet.”
Industry insiders agree that Ryka’s gender-specific approach is a big benefit to the brand.
“We continue to see success in women’s-only product [overall],” said Matt Powell, VP and sports industry analyst with The NPD Group Inc. “Customers, especially the older millennial athlete, are looking for products that are specifically made for women. Ryka lines up nicely with that consumer.”
He likened Ryka’s ability to cater to its consumer base to some of the other names dominating the burgeoning women’s athletic apparel market right — names such as Danskin, C9 and Victoria’s Secret (and its Pink offshoot).
And in the past year, Ryka has seen the results in its numbers. According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, Ryka sales increased 10 percent in the 12 months through August. This outpaced the overall women’s athletic footwear market, which experienced 1 percent growth.
According to Krivelow, Ryka’s consumers are responding best to its training sneakers (led by the fall ’17 Devotion XT style), its water shoes and sport-casual products. For spring ’18, the brand expects several items to perform especially well, including its Hydrosphere water shoe, Savannah sport sandal, the updated evotion Plus 2 walking shoe and several training sneakers (Grafik Flow, Vida RZX, updated Devotion XT).
Ryka’s retail partners cheered the brand’s multi-category coverage. “Their variety is good, and they’ve got a nice pulse of what’s going on in the athletic trend right now,” said Matt Wong, athletic buyer for Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse. “They’re covering quite a few bases and doing it pretty well.”
Despite recent successes, Krivelow admitted that Ryka faces its share of challenges, mainly concerning speed to market. “Right now, [the customer] can get her information — the latest trends, best sellers, what her friends are liking — simply by the click of a button,” she said. “We need to ensure that the latest trends and most relevant products are getting into our consumers’ hands faster than ever.”
To conquer that challenge, Caleres has taken aggressive action companywide, including revamping its wholesale-division operations, partnering with analytics companies to best understand its consumer and improving communication with factories.
And Powell believes Ryka has not capitalized on what he believes is a stellar marketing opportunity.
“They haven’t played up the heritage of the brand to the extent that they could,” he said. “It’s a great marketing handle; it’s one that most brands in the space can’t tell. That’s a lever Ryka could be pulling that they have not fully leveraged.”
However, the brand is boosting its efforts to meet the consumer where she shops. Krivelow noted that while Ryka is a staple in major chains such as Kohl’s and DSW, its customer is increasingly shopping online. So the brand has been emphasizing digital selling channels.
That effort seems to be paying off. According to Ryka, its e-commerce business is up 50 percent for the year.