What Can Outdoor Brands Learn From Smaller Sneaker Labels?

While the outdoor marketplace is dominated by large brands, a wave of smaller sneaker labels have entered the industry and found ways to impress consumers. With the 2019 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show in Denver approaching, FN asked five execs the same question: What can outdoor brands learn from niche sneaker players? Here’s what they had to say.

Move quicker

“Learn to use the smallness of your brand. You have a shorter lead time; a lot of the big guys, they’re planned 18 or 24 months in advance. With us, we can pivot quickly and change something right before we buy from the factory and be able to capitalize on a trend or keep buying a hot style. When you’re smaller, you have more freedom to move quicker than when you’re one of the big guys.” — Dave Goldberg, owner and president of Ewing Athletics

Understand your customer

“For starters, obsess over your customer, for they are the ones who will help you grow. New brands have one shot at converting a customer and keeping them, so if you are not making sure customers love your brand, the site experience, the product and so on, it will be very hard to build a solid business. Greats has made a series of mistakes along the way, but we have learned from each of them and improved.” —  Ryan Babenzien, founder and CEO of Greats

Hire a strong team

“We identified our strengths and weaknesses early on and brought on strong partners who could fill in the gaps — you’re only as good as your weakest link, so hire a strong team. [And] we try to keep things consistent. We knew we had strong product to begin with, and from there, we’ve held everything else we’ve done to the same high standards.” — Josh Shorrock, co-founder of Lane Eight

Stay true to your brand

“Spend time defining who you are as a brand — and also who you are not — and stay true to that. We at Nobull use that as a filter for everything we do, from product design to content design. We’re not for everybody, and we’re OK with that, and we’ve been very honest with ourselves about who we are as a brand. For any startup in any industry, I would recommend the same thing.” — Marcus Wilson, co-founder of Nobull

Be consistent

“It’s important to stay razor-focused on the quality and consistency of your product. At Koio, we chose a manufacturer that upheld our dedication to world-class craftsmanship. We’ve [also] experienced growth in creating a community around our mission. Smaller brands can find great success in taking the time to learn about their consumers — figure out what they’re passionate about, where they live, what they do in their free time. You can use this information to inform your creative strategy.” — Johannes Quodt, co-founder and co-CEO of Koio

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