How Work Boot Brands Are Targeting Young Consumers & Women to Grab Market Share

Looking for a plumber? It might be harder than you think to find someone to fix those leaky pipes. According to the Department of Labor, there is a skilled labor shortage. The U.S. economy had 7.6 million unfilled jobs, but only 6.5 million people looking for work as of January 2019.

With a shrinking labor pool in the trades, work boot brands are getting aggressive when it comes to grabbing their share of the market. Here, work boot executives discuss why they’re targeting young workers through social media and tapping into the growing women’s sector.

MELISSA LEWIS

Marketing manager, Georgia Boot

“As the number of workers in traditional occupations declines, Georgia continues to expand its product offering to reach unique and emerging categories. Through partnerships with [youth] organizations like 4-H, we’re able to target a younger demographic that embodies the Georgia Boot persona while learning leadership skills to take into the future. We’re focused on meeting the changing footwear needs of a new generation of workers.”

ERIC KINNEY

CEO and President, White’s Boots

“Over the past few years, we’ve been diversifying our product lines to hit all end users. Adding handmade lifestyle boots and now Italian-sourced hunting and work boots to our heritage lines, for example, has allowed us to target different segments and price points. We’re also going direct to consumer via e-commerce to offer more competitive pricing to a larger audience. Lastly, we’re doubling down on marketing and social media to drive more online sales.”

BETH CROSS

Founder and CEO, Ariat

“We’ve more than doubled our offering of technically engineered work boots and workwear to address the requirements in construction, energy, utility, manufacturing and warehousing. One area of rapid growth is women’s work footwear, where we’re able to build on our existing platform of performance [looks] developed over 25 years ago. We’re investing heavily in regional and national advertising to connect with the next generation of workers, using highly targeted social media, digital campaigns and more traditional advertising. We’re building our network of independent work retailers [through] Ariat Work shop-in-shops and local advertising. As a result, our work footwear and apparel has become our fastest-growing category.”

KEN BLANCO

VP of U.S. sales, Footwear Specialties International

“We’ve taken a proactive approach by working with partners to identify new opportunities on job sites such as food processing, the oil industry and cement plants, turning them into footwear solutions that exceed end-user expectations. Many of our top-selling styles are in specialty work categories including insulation, metatarsal guards and women’s, which are all categories we believe will continue to grow despite anticipated worker shortages. Our strength lies in our ability to maneuver in these categories.”

MARK URDAHL

CEO, Red Wing Shoe Co.

“In our 14-year history, Red Wing has successfully branched into a variety of products and markets, which allows us to weather whatever comes our way. Most recently, we’ve designed more work boots for women and younger generations, two audiences we know will be vital in building tomorrow’s workforce. To meet the needs of future skilled laborers, we’ve developed footwear to be lightweight while meeting safety standards, and [we’re working to make it] available in more sizes. We’ve recently introduced several options, including the upcoming Exos Lite, which will be Red Wing’s lightest work boot ever.”

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