OR Players Talk Burning Issues

SALT LAKE CITY — While winter weather is boosting near-term sales for some companies, many attendees at the Outdoor Retailer trade show, held here Jan. 22-25, were taking a more long-range view of the business.

Here, some of the biggest names in the industry reflect on what’s top of mind as they look at the coming year, whether it’s expanding into new categories or fueling more innovation.

Jim Weber
CEO, Brooks Running

Top opportunity: “It’s executing our strategy — you have to do it all well. We have to continue to stoke our culture and keep our team energized.”
Biggest challenge: “We’ve hired 130 new people. We need to maintain our culture as we grow. We’re working hard to scale our business, so I’m spending a lot of time on building the culture.”

Gene McCarthy
President, Merrell

Top opportunity: “To reinvent the outdoors and do something drastically different.”
Biggest challenge: “Industry malaise. Everybody had a great run, then the last two years weren’t good, so everyone ran to the corners and played it safe.”

Jake Brandman
President, Sanuk
Top opportunity:
“The different categories that are emerging in our business. Our history is in sandals, but the shoe business is tremendous for us.”
Biggest challenge: “Being able to move fast enough to seize the opportunities in the women’s casual shoe space.”

Matt Powell
Analyst, SportsOneSource
Top opportunity:
“Labor is clearly the fastest-increasing cost out there, so any [advances in technology] that can [remove labor from the equation] are a good thing.”
Biggest challenge: “Maintaining discipline and product segmentation as business grows.”

Ed van Wezel
CEO, Hi-Tec Sports

Top opportunity: “We’ve tripled our global business in three years, but the U.S. is still our biggest opportunity. We can reach a lot of different consumers who don’t know our brand.”
Biggest challenge: “I don’t think about challenges. The industry is in a great place. We needed the last two years to make everyone better and separate the men from the boys.”

Richie Woodworth
President, Saucony
Top opportunity:
“The beauty of the Saucony business right now is how much innovation is driving what we do, and the thing I’m most happy with is how we have taken that innovation and put it into commercial products, from the top of the line to the bottom of the line.”
Biggest challenge: “People are willing to pay for technology and innovation, [but only] if they can experience it making their run better. We have to innovate in a way that’s demonstrably better.”

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