Lowa’s look for spring ’22 is a bit different from past seasons.
The outdoor staple revealed its footwear range for the season last week at Outdoor Retailer Summer in Denver. The lineup includes updates of several core franchises, however it’s the brand’s new additions that are the most eye-catching. Most notably, Lowa will introduce the Fusion, an everyday outdoor footwear style, which is its primary focus for spring ’22.
Although the brand created a buzz at the show with its new styles, Lowa, like many others in the greater outdoor industry, will have to navigate tough challenges ahead — specifically supply chain pressures and congestion at the ports — that will impact the brand for several seasons.
Below, Lowa GM Peter Sachs shares with FN how the brand is navigating the relentless industry-wide issues and how a fresh aesthetic for spring ’22 will move the needle.
After a long stretch where consumers could only shop online, where will physical retail and e-commerce settle out?
Peter Sachs: “E-comm is opening brick-and mortar stores. Backcountry just opened a store in Colorado, and [a location] in Park City. And a lot of brick-and-mortar stores opened Shopify websites real fast last year. They’re all finding a new level. I’ve said to dealers for years, to brick-and-mortar guys, “Don’t think you need to be the next Zappos or Backcountry or REI.com. Put the 100 items in your store that you have in stock 364 out of 365 days, put your local events, put your shopping hours and give your local customers a reason to shop locally and to find out information. REI.com is not going to do that, Backcountry is not going to that, Zappos isn’t going to do that. You can compete in e-comm, and you can get some business.’ On the other hand, those e-comm guys are now finding they need to be in touch with consumers so they are going to start opening more stores. There’s a new shift happening.”
Supply chain pressures and congestion at the ports are industry-wide challenges. How has it impacted the Lowa business?
PS: “For 25 years, it took about three-and-a-half weeks transit time to get from Germany to me. This year, some are four-and-a-half weeks, some are 12 weeks. There’s no rhyme or reason. Lowa is actually producing pretty well because all of our factories are in Europe, and Europe has a pretty good vaccination rate at this point, especially compared to Asia. For sure, some things for a week or two behind, but not three months behind. We’re telling customers we’re going to deliver to you on time, and if it’s not, it might be a week late, might be six weeks late — and they get. But it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
How are you working to combat these issues?
PS: “You try to plan better in the future and you try to have a lot of patience, try to be really honest with your customers about what the status of their order is. We’re calling customers and saying, ‘We posted this on Aug. 1 and now it’s looking like Aug. 20. Do you want to keep that order, change that order, cancel that order?’ More often than not it’s, ‘No, keep it.’ Because they’re not getting better from anybody else. We’re trying to over communicate.”
What will drive growth for the back half of 2021?
PS: “Availability, availability, availability. If you’re looking to buy product and I don’t have product but the next brand has it, the next brand is going to get orders. It’s really that simple.”
Your spring ’22 range features shoes that have a far different look than what Lowa is typically known for. How would you describe this new aesthetic? And who is it for?
PS: “We haven’t abandoned anything in our core business — the Tibet, the Camino, a mountaineering boot or the Renegade. Those are all there and they’re all just as important today as they were 15 months ago. But the customer also wants something they can go outside in, walk the dog in, go to the park in — and drink a beer and have a burger in. For the Fusion, they want something that they can take their mountain boot off or they get off a bike and go ‘ah.’ The Fusion is perfect for that. It uses our injection technology and it’s got design elements from our Zephyrs and from hiking, but it’s more athletic, which reflects the customers who are wearing Lululemon, Atheta and maybe Prana — not just Patagonia and Woolrich, those kinds of traditional brands. They’re wearing clothing, now let’s make sure we’ve got the shoe.”
How have your retail partners responded to the new looks?
PS: “They’re going, ‘Wow, great.’ And it’s not just the Fusion. It’s the same with the Malta and the Axos [new styles]. It’s new, it’s on-trend, the colors are right. I think we’re going to have a great year with all these new products. At the same time, Camino got a facelift and a technology lift, and that’s one of our top shoes. And we brought Zephyr back into hiking out of a task force. It started in hike 12 years ago, but we brought it back because it’s just appropriate for the time.”