With the aid of a new U.S. partner, 130-year-old Austrian clog brand Stegmann has been making strides to expand its business and connect with future generations of customers.
In 2016, Ashland, Va.-based AGS Footwear Group took over the brand in North America after delivery problems with several former distributors. And it has quickly helped to turn around operations.
Andy Jacobs, CEO of the footwear division of AGS, noted that Stegmann’s U.S. business was up 38 percent for 2017 over the year prior, with expectations for another 18 percent increase in 2018.
He noted that the versatility of Stegmann’s clogs is a big contributor to its appeal. “The beauty is that it’s evergreen,” said Jacobs. “[Our] graphite felt clog is the same today as it was five years ago, and will be five years from now. This also gives us the backbone to try some new things such as novelty leather and materials including [calf hair] and metallic in order to give the brand some spice.”
Stegmann introduced leather clog designs for men and women for fall ’17. And while felt materials remain the cornerstone of the collection, these trans-seasonal leather updates are giving retailers fresh ways to grow their business with the brand.
“I’ve had good luck with the leather styles,” said Jeanene Beane, footwear buyer for Renys, a department store chain in New Castle, Maine, that has been carrying the line for more than 20 years. “The clog customer is a little bit of everybody: It’s a woman who wants something comfortable and easy, and an older lady who wants to look nice but her feet may have [fit issues].”
Similarly, Dolores White, owner of John’s Shoe Store in Falmouth, Mass., said the clogs have particular appeal among a more mature clientele. The store, which has been selling the line since its U.S. launch in the 1980s, said the clogs serve a dual purpose for her shoppers. “I see women walk into John’s with the clogs on,” said White. “When they get older, they become fans of their slippers due to their support.”
Stegmann clogs feature comfort constructions that include a polyurethane bottom style. There’s also a version with an anatomic cork-latex footbed, now found in the leather Eiger collapsible-back style for women, and open-back Graz and Linz unisex styles. All clogs retail for $130.
In addition to design updates, Jacobs attributed the brand’s growth to its strong in-stock position, which benefits retail partners such as outdoor, comfort and family shoe stores, in addition to catalogs. “We don’t require minimums on fill-in orders,” he said. Nevertheless, Jacobs admitted there have been issues bringing stores on board. “One of the biggest challenges is getting brick-and-mortar retailers to consider putting in new brands.”
While Stegmann does a small amount of e-commerce business, accounting for roughly 10 to 15 percent of sales, it prefers customers be properly fitted by a retailer. “We want them to try on the product and feel it for themselves,” said Jacobs, particularly since sizing adjustments were recently made to service a broader consumer base. “There are a lot of very loyal Stegmann customers who buy the wool clogs consistently and in multiple colors. We’re excited to see how this audience responds to leather and also to explore new audiences.”
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