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Sperry, Tretorn & More Brands Open Up About the Impact of Climate Change on Business

Threats of climate change aren’t new. It’s been happening for decades. Now, however, consumers and companies alike are seeing the effects first-hand in the form of extreme weather, which appears as one of the top risks in the World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Risks Report.

“Climate touches everything, every part of the value chain and it touches every product category,” said Austin Whitman, CEO of Climate Neutral, a nonprofit organization that works with brands to eliminate carbon emissions. “There’s concern at a deeper level by individuals that their factories, offices will be affected by climate change, whether it’s in coastal areas or the plains, that changing weather patterns might potentially
hit them.”

The impact of shifting weather patterns also is trickling down to consumer buying habits as well.

For Bernardo, its rain and seasonal boots category is very important, but the changing climate can make it difficult to pinpoint the best time to deliver, for instance.

“This year, the cold weather came very late, so the sales for this product picked up much later than they had in previous years. In some ways, it worked in our favor because we ran out of inventory in other categories,” explained Heather Williams de Courreges, creative director at Bernardo1946. “This category is very important but peaks when the temperatures dip. We create a longer season with styling that is versatile — with more than half of the assortment working into the rainier spring season. Many of the rain boots don’t look like rain boots. We still believe in the weather category, but we have seen a large trend swing back to dressier styles and sandals, and an uptick in sales.”

Going forward, rain boots will remain in Bernardo’s offering, but with a less SKU-intensive assortment.

Bernardo, rain boot
Bernardo’s quilted rain boot.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Bernardo

Tretorn, meanwhile, noted that while it’s difficult to assess how much the changing climate is specifically impacting the demand for rain and all-weather product, they’ve had a successful year in terms of sales for those items.

“As a brand, we will be looking at an expanded rain assortment to meet consumer demand, as well as continually looking for ways in which we can help minimize our carbon footprint,” said Brandy McCarty, chief merchandising officer and SVP of global sales and strategy at The Eastman Group. “This is most evident as we work to utilize recycled materials in uppers and other components across all of our products, both weather boots and sneakers.”

This fall, Tretorn teamed up with charity Sea Life Trust to address climate change with the launch of a limited-edition version of Tretorn’s iconic rain boots, labeled “Sea Level Re-Boot.” The boots have a printed measuring stick on the back that calls attention to rising sea levels due to the climate crisis.

(According to calculations from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels are expected to rise by more than 10 inches by 2050.)

Beginning with the spring collection of 2022, all new styles of Tretorn’s rain boots will consist of recycled polyester and natural rubber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Sperry is also working to be more sustainable. Global brand president Katherine Cousins said the team set a goal that by 2024, 50% of models produced will be part of the SeaCycled Collection made with recycled and responsible materials and processes. As for the impact of climate change, she added, “[It] is driving demand for products that can perform in all conditions and particularly in wet weather.”

sperry, saltwater boot, rain boots
Sperry’s Saltwater boot.
CREDIT: JON W JOHNSON

In response Sperry is leaning into its well-established strength in that category. “Our innovation-focused design team has incorporated new technologies that are built to withstand all types of weather in a new range of waterproof boots,” said Cousins, adding that Saltwater duck boots and Cold Bay collections continue to be top performers.

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