For Hanwag, the secret to the North American market is to keep things niche.
Now entering its third season of North American distribution through Swedish company Fenix Outdoor, the German outdoor brand has found its footing here by focusing on the specialty players and independents in a variety of segments. In addition to the outdoor world, its success also has come from the hunting and fishing, and fashion categories.
“The pride and the craftsmanship in the brand, which is made in Germany and Croatia, doesn’t put it on a level playing field with mass brands, so we’ve gone after specific end uses and a higher-end clientele,” said Steve Von Ruden, sales director for Hanwag. “It’s about premier distribution.”
The separately lasted men’s and women’s performance styles run the gamut from premier alpine boots to more everyday outdoor styles. Prices for the bulk of the line fall between $250 and $325.
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With a loyal following for its leather trekking and alpine boots, Hanwag has found placement in hunting and outdoor mainstays such as Barney’s Sports Chalet in Anchorage, Alaska; Scheel’s All Sports chain based in Fargo; as well as Edmonton, Alberta-based Track ‘n’ Trail in Western Canada, where the boots have a devoted following. (The chain had been importing the brand itself for years.)
But the brand has also found favor for its classic double-stitched looks at fashion players such as The Tannery in Boston and Atrium in New York. And Von Ruden said the brand is leveraging its fit story to set itself apart from other heritage brands in the lifestyle space and the outdoor world.
“We’re kind of the last guy coming in, a late entry into that field,” he said. “But our boots fit better. Everything is built on a specific last for a specific end use. Our lasts and the craftsmanship that goes into them are the foundation.” The brand’s use of premium leathers — including heavier cowhides and yak leathers — are also a major selling point, Von Ruden added.
Heading into summer, he said, Hanwag is in 68 accounts, and he expects to have doubled the door count for fall ’14.
Going forward, Von Ruden said, the North American team is working with the Munich-based brand to make sure the line incorporates pieces designed for the U.S. and Canadian markets, including more lifestyle looks and designs to help the brand