Shoe executive Jim Monahan walked away from his decade-plus tenure as Asics America’s VP of footwear in 2014 because he was intrigued by the opportunity of introducing China-based performance label 361 Degrees to the U.S.
In the athletic brand’s first year in the market, Monahan worked to make inroads with the specialty running channel. And in 2015, he hit the 100-store mark, with retail partners including Runner’s Depot in Florida, Elite Feet in Kansas and Paragon Sporting Goods in New York.
Now Monahan is focused on expanding the label’s distribution. He anticipates that by year’s end, 361 Degrees will have more than 200 retail accounts, with a continued emphasis on specialty running. However, the brand is also looking to boost its e-commerce presence.
“Running specialty is very important for us. It’s an environment where we want our product to fit,” the executive explained. “[But] online can’t be ignored. You’ve got to find the [right] mix.”
To cater to running stores, the brand is touting performance product such as its 361-Strata and 361-Chaser running shoes, retailing for $150 and $100, respectively. On the training side, the $110 361-BioSpeed will be a key style for fall. All three of those styles feature the brand’s proprietary Quikfoam midsole compound, which is advertised as being both soft and fast — something Monahan believes is atypical in fitness footwear today.
The executive said the brand exceeded its first-year sales goals in 2015, and it aims to double that number in 2016. But Monahan admitted that the brand faces challenges. “We understand the running consumer is extremely loyal,” he said. “It’s going to be our job to give them an alternative they don’t get today and make sure we’re making a connection with them beyond just product.”
To form a connection with consumers, the 361 Degrees team will have a presence at more than 200 events this year, such as 5Ks, marathons and fitness expos. The label will also continue to employ its Sheepa mascot — introduced in November to represent Quikfoam’s fast and soft characteristics — throughout its digital marketing campaigns and in-store activations.