Ecco Hires U.S. Product Manager

Ecco is bringing its worlds closer together.

In a move to better serve its 90 global markets, the Danish comfort brand recently named product managers to each of its three sales regions. Felix Zahn now oversees the North American market from Ecco’s U.S. headquarters in Londonderry, N.H. (His counterparts in the Asia/Pacific and European markets came onboard this spring.)

“We wanted to connect the branding teams in Denmark with the American market,” said Dave Quel, president of Ecco USA. “We now have a closer connection between the U.S., Ecco’s largest market, and the product development team at [Ecco] headquarters. Our [Danish] design team develops product for 90 markets. It’s impossible to travel to all these markets to see what’s happening.”

Tarek Hassan, co-owner of The Tannery in Boston, said the move created a good bridge between the brand’s offices. “[Zahn] lives in America and understands the market very well,” he said. “It’s important for a European company to know what’s happening [here], what works and what doesn’t.”

Because a Denmark-based team develops a worldwide collection often influenced by European trends, Zahn can now assure the needs of the North American market is also addressed, particularly when it comes to performance looks. Zahn is also tasked with bringing Ecco’s more trend-driven product stateside as part of the parent company’s move to develop a more modern brand perception globally.

Zahn first tackled the women’s category for fall ’10, encouraging the sales force to push more modern looks. So far, the results have been positive. Although Quel declined to give sales figures, he noted, “We continue to see [growth] in spring ’11 into fall ’11.” Zahn has moved on to men’s, introducing casuals with a younger vibe. “It’s a more fashion-oriented spin on core products,” said Quel.

But Ecco is banking on the sport-casual category going forward, with an expanded offering set for fall ’11. “It’s casual with an athletic feel,” said Quel, about the non-performance styles. “It’s a nice growth vehicle for the U.S. market.”

Taking this hybrid category even further is the incorporation of Ecco’s existing Biom natural motion technology into a series of athletic-lifestyle looks for fourth quarter. “[Biom is] a significant and growing part of our business,” he said. “We’re [now] putting it into new product.”

Currently, Biom is found in walking, training and golf product, the latter introduced for spring ’11. “If you look at the minimalist trend that developed here in the U.S., it’s taking more of a stronghold, whereas it’s just starting to go over to Europe.”

Mont Wukke, owner of three Ecco stores in Florida, is enthusiastic about the Biom offering. “They’re faster-looking shoes,” he said, noting an increase in younger customers coming into the store due to Biom.

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