New Balance’s CEO Says the Shoe Industry Needs to Take a Page From Zara and Asos

“It’s the new normal,” Joe Preston said on customized product. The CEO and president of New Balance spoke at the 2019 FN CEO Summit in Miami this week, emphasizing the importance of innovation.

Along with focusing on personalization, Preston discussed working more and more with young talent in order to create fresh designs. The brand has a strong relationship with Pensole Design Academy, creating a co-op program that offers students the chance to work with New Balance in the form of a one-year paid apprenticeship.

New Balance is doing things differently when it comes to its ambassadors, too.

In 2018, the company signed Darius Bazley, the high-school basketball star who skipped out on his Syracuse University scholarship offer to opt in for the 2019 NBA Draft. Despite not being a NBA athlete yet, New Balance offered Bazley a unique contract to be a company intern.

New Balance CEO and president Joe Preston onstage at FN’s 2019 CEO Summit in Miami.
CREDIT: Johan Cruz

While innovation has been key to the  firm’s growth, Preston said speed to market is top of mind. He explained, “What Zara and Asos are doing is a great example of what the shoe industry needs to do. The product life cycle is shorter [nowadays].”

And New Balance isn’t forgetting its roots. “We are making investment on lots of different fronts. We’re investing in equipment, people and manufacturing plants,” Preston said during a presentation on its made-in-the-USA program. According to the CEO, the company is specifically putting efforts behind 3D printing in its American factories as well working with MIT graduates.

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