Execs Sound Off on Hot Topics at OR

SALT LAKE CITY — The mood was upbeat at the Outdoor Retailer trade show, held here Aug. 6-9, and market watchers said they were focused on the future.

Here, some of the industry’s top experts reflect on seizing opportunities, working with trends and where the market is headed.

Steve Meineke
President, Keen; Portland, Ore.

On preparing for the future: “We had a surge of growth in 2014, in our core U.S. business and overseas. We’re investing in a new era, and as a private company, we’re not held captive by the quarterly report. We’ll be working on bringing new innovation.”

Richie Woodworth
President, Saucony; Lexington, Mass.

On the state of the running category: “There is a shift inside the market toward more fashion around running, where color and materials play an important role. [Consumers are choosing] running shoes for ease and versatility of use. Participation in the sport continues to grow. And that bodes well.”

David Kahan
CEO, Birkenstock USA; Novato, Calif.

On attacking when trends fall in your favor: “We’ve done more in the past six months than we did in the last 60 years. In the past, when a trend happened to a comfort brand, they’d get scared and get into their bunker. We’re not afraid. We’re not being careful — there’s no reason to be.”

Ed van Wezel
CEO, Hi-Tec; Amsterdam

On the potential of a new category: “The real attack for us now is walking. It’s overlooked; it’s all sweat, sweat, sweat and adrenaline. Walking is far and away the most participated-in category, and we want to make walking cool.”

Mitch Kummetz
Analyst, Robert W. Baird & Co.; Denver

On the mood in the market: “My sense is that retailers are at this show in a better frame of mind [after a pretty good winter and spring season], and that they will be more optimistic in their buying.”

Gene McCarthy
President, Merrell; Rockford, Mich.

On the big question facing the industry: “Here’s the beauty: We’re faster and we’re focusing on an expanding consumer [opportunity]. The beast is how consumers will be shopping in the next five years.”

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