Footwear is the next frontier for Chrome.
The San Francisco-based brand, known for its indestructible messenger bags, has been making bike-compatible shoes since 2009, but the segment continues to grow, said President Steve McCallion. With 300 accounts for the three shoe categories (SPD-compatible, bike-friendly and cycle-lifestyle), Chrome is expanding its lineup with new styles, including its first boot style, the 415, which launches this spring.
Here, McCallion discusses distribution plans and why Chrome is more than just a bike brand.
1. Your biggest category is currently the SPD-compatible shoes. What is your position on bike-friendly elements that don’t clip in?
SM: We sell our shoes through around 300 dealers and our own stores, and many of those are bike shops. The independent bike shops really only know how to sell the SPD styles, and people walking into those shops are really only looking for SPDs. So that’s why most of our sales are still up here. And then you have this new [bike-friendly] category, where you need to educate people so they understand that there’s a three-quarter pedal plate and other technology, and the value of that. That category has taken more energy for us to build.
2. Does that mean you’ll be looking to sell into different kinds of retailers?
SM: We’re looking to refine the distribution and get into stores that want to help grow the urban bike and utility categories. Urban utility takes urban bike and extends it out — it goes into moto, skate, music and art. And the general trend of people saying I want fewer, better things in my life has continued to persist. We are actively looking for partners in the footwear category, people who are in this space that would help tell that story. You have bike, and then you have urban utility, and there’s a big overlap in the center.
3. What do you see in Chrome’s future?
SM: [Urban utility.] When you look at [that idea] and the things people need that help them live in the city, it’s not just bags and footwear. We just launched a new waterproof apparel line, part of our Storm Technology, [a line of waterproof gear that launched for fall]. And that was something that people expect from us. They expect us to help us protect them from the elements. We’re not just here to be fashion; our footwear is adaptable. It’s versatile.