New Ecco President Ramps Up With Launches

NEW YORK — Ecco is stocking up for fall.

The Londonderry, N.H.-based company is aggressively building its inventories, as demand for its products this year has, so far, outpaced supply, according to newly appointed President Dave Quel.

“We’ve far exceeded the budget we put forth,” said Quel. “When business started to spike, the challenge was to get back into stock.”

Quel, who last week celebrated his 11th year with the company, added that year-to-date sales have tripled expectations.

According to Quel, the U.S. accounts for 20 percent of global sales, a proportion he expects to maintain going forward.

The president said he will seek to bolster relationships with upper-tier department stores and independents.

“Ecco’s a premium brand, and it’s the road we want to continue to go down,” he said.

Still, Quel admitted that Ecco’s price position — women’s looks retail for an average of $135, while men’s are typically around $170 — impacted the brand more than other players during the recession.

But retailers said that as the economic mood continues to brighten, the firm has an opportunity to capitalize on its strategy.

On the product front, Rick Ravel, president of Austin, Texas-based Karavel Shoes, said he is already seeing a change in women’s product, and has rung up sales with walking styles and sandals targeting the 40-and-older consumer.

The men’s segment is also benefiting, Ravel said, thanks to Ecco’s focus on “going back to the basic dress and casual footwear that made them so strong.”

Going forward, Ecco aims to grab a larger share of the performance market — namely with the expansion of its natural-motion Biom collection. First launched in running styles, Biom will grow to include walking, fitness and golf shoes for spring ’11.

And according to Quel, Biom could eventually find its way into the brown-shoe category. “It’s a huge growth opportunity,” he said. “It’s authentic and credible. … It has the ability to translate into lifestyle product as well.”

In the golf arena, Ecco has seen big success this spring, due to the strong performance of its new hybrid golf shoe, the Street Premier, which is designed to transition from the street to the course. The look, available for men and women, got some exposure at the recent Masters Tournament, when pro golfer Fred Couples wore the shoes sockless.

“We received thousands of consumer calls. There was so much demand for these shoes,” Quel said, noting that additional golf styles will be added for spring ’11.

Finally, the firm is updating its brand image with a renewed focus on its Danish heritage.

Upcoming advertising campaigns will evoke images representative of Denmark. “It will help connect consumers with what Ecco is all about,” Quel said. “It’s what’s been missing before.”

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