Wolverine has been designing work boots since 1883, making it synonymous with trusted craftsmanship. The namesake brand in the Wolverine Worldwide portfolio has honed its reputation as the go-to source for comfortable work wear, with customers gravitating towards the promise of quality and performance.
That name recognition allows Wolverine to command a powerful position in the market. While trends may come and go, function remains a key consideration in any footwear purchase; with Wolverine, shoppers can be confident that every pair will perform as needed. This guarantee is born from years of product development, design refinement and consumer research – and this is exactly the same approach that the brand is applying to its latest launch: women’s outdoor boots.
“We‘ve found that, considering our roots in work boots, our brand awareness among outdoor consumers is high,” said Andy Shripka, VP of Wolverine Marketing. “This creates a valuable opportunity for us to enter the space. Women account for a majority of the seasonal boot market and we knew that if we wanted to make our brand stick, we would have to enter and win in the women’s market.”
This market differs from the men’s in several ways, including requiring a different physical construction. But one of the most important distinctions is the emphasis that the women’s market tends to place on balancing function with aesthetics. Shoes can’t just perform as needed; they have to also fulfill a style requirement, in order to be the pick of choice.
An Outdoor Adventure
The soon-to-be launching Torrent women’s duck boot is new territory for Wolverine, but the brand is well-suited to the task. The company’s footwear experience meant that Wolverine had a solid framework to build on. But the team also knew that, while they could hit the ground running in terms of outdoor protection and performance, winning in this category would rely on designing something that resonated aesthetically with the end consumer.
“Dedicating an outdoor boot to women is a tall challenge for a historically men’s brand,” said Shripka. “It’s a competitive space with several established brands, so we wanted to make sure we got it right. To do that, we needed a deep level of feedback from our core target: women. Building a women’s boot that is both functional and stylish… That took some time and patience to ensure we got it right.”
Consumer satisfaction has always been a priority for Wolverine, which is why the team assembled a group of 36 women for the initial round of feedback, before speaking with another 350 women for a second stage of insights. The risk of expanding into a new category is always high, even when a brand is as established as Wolverine. But to launch a successful women’s collection, Wolverine needs a product line that succeeds in an entirely new area for the brand: fashion-forward style.
By speaking directly with women from the earliest product development stages, Wolverine was able to ensure that they remained aligned with what their customer truly wanted. The Torrent features a rugged lug outsole for superior grip, a vulcanized rubber shell for elemental protection, and a fleece inner lining for unparalleled coziness. A slight heel provides style value, while waterproof leather ensures feet stay dry while looking good.
Based on the initial reactions of their focus groups, it seems like the brand is onto a winner.
“Much, much better than I had expected!” said Melody G., a 43-year-old consumer in Selah, Washington. “I expected to see more dark leather big boots for men but I actually saw some really cute, trendy and feminine type boots that I could see myself wearing on many occasions.”
Considering Wolverine’s existing collections, many of the women expected to see more work-focused and monochromatic offerings, but the feedback consistently highlighted the range of colorways and sleeker silhouettes available in the new outdoor collection. Hannah M. praised the balance of fashion with waterproof and tread features, while Stephanie C. could see use cases in both everyday wear and outdoor leisure.
This versatility is a crucial piece of the Torrent’s appeal, as well as a broader theme of the entire outdoor collection. The Wolverine team understood immediately that these boots would not just be used for specific outdoor activities, but would need to function as well in an urban setting – albeit one experiencing inclement weather – as they did on a mountainside. Women who commute through the elements and then need to hit the ground running need shoes that can keep up. The Torrent does just that.
To demonstrate this practical sensibility, as well as its fashionable edge, Wolverine chose to take a new approach with its product discovery. Selecting a few special partners, the brand shared limited release product during the peak winter season so that these women could style and wear the Torrent in its natural environment. Through this influencer campaign, potential customers can see the boots in action – and see themselves in the styles.
“We’re not interested in just paying a group of people to take pictures with our boots,” said Shripka. “To be successful we’re going to have to be relevant; to be relevant we need a following that believes in and endorses our product. We are working with those who have raised their hand because they understand us and have a passion for the brand.”
Available in striking ivory, olive, grey, cognac and black, the Torrent wraps Wolverine’s 138 years of innovation in a fashionable package that has immediately resonated with shoppers. And once the brand has made that immediate aesthetic connection, it can support that product appeal with the technical performance and function that women still want from their footwear.
Women’s outdoor is a new frontier for Wolverine, but not one that the team takes lightly. Rather, it feels like the natural progression after decades spent developing and refining their existing core collections. The brand already knew it could craft shoes that could be walked in all day long, in extreme conditions. But now it’s learning that it can also look fashionable at the same time.
“We believe the brand is a great fit in the outdoor space,” said Tom Kennedy, Global Brand President at Wolverine. “There are certainly some great competitors already in place, but we know we have the brand and the know-how to succeed and will