The Weekly Digital Magazine for the Sporting Goods


The Weekly Digital Magazine for the Sporting Goods
ISSUE 1415
APRIL 14, 2014
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ISSUE 1415
APRIL 14, 2014
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Scott Boulbol, Fernando J. Delgado, Bill Kendy, Charlie Lunan
The Weekly Digital Magazine for the Sporting Goods Industry
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4 Women Baby Boomers
Push Marathon Participation to
All time Record
Oiselle Signs Kara Goucher
6 Running Vendors Support Track Athletes in
USATF Squabble
7 Janji Run for Another
8 Headsweats Introduces the
Honor Boston Collection
Yurbuds to Sponsor
Boston Marathon
Running Team
10 Newton Looks Beyond Niche Status
14 The Sock Wall
An Integral Part Of The Athletic
Footwear Experience
18 Insoles
Much More than Cushioning
24 Talking Insoles
Some obvious, and not so obvious,
pointers on how to sell insoles.
26 Hugh Gaither
President and Founder Feetures!
Cover: Photo courtesy Reebok
APRIL 14, 2014 |
Women Baby Boomers
Push Marathon Participation
to ALL TIME Record
The percentage of people finishing marathons who are women
continued to inch up in 2013, when participation rebounded strongly
from 2012 and set another record, according to estimates released by
Running USA.
Despite several cancellations due to weather and the Boston Marathon
attack, a record 1,100 marathons were held in the U.S. last year, according
to Running USA's annual Marathon Report. A record 541,000 runners
finished the 26.2 mile race and women made up a record 43 percent, or
232,600 up from 42 percent in 2012. The data shows female participation rates
caught up with male participation rates of 31 percent in the 34 to 44 year-old
demographic and then overtook them in the three age groups beyond.
Participation in the Master division, ages 40 and older, also set a record
climbing a point to 47 percent of participants, or 254,300.
The numbers demonstrate that a 6 percent decline in finishers in
2012 was an aberration attributable to the cancellation of the ING
New York City Marathon. That race was poised to draw 47,000-plus finishers, but was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy.
USA Running estimated that the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston
Marathon finish line and weather cancellations of major marathons in
Dallas and Memphis in December reduced the number of finishers by
Signs Kara Goucher
Kara Goucher
4 | APRIL 14, 2014
13,000 in 2013. The New York City Marathon, meanwhile, set a record
with 50,266 finishers.
The only possible negative metric was a -0.7 percent dip in the number
of finishers from the same 372 U.S. marathons for 2012 and 2013, not
including the Boston Marathon. By comparison there was a 1.6 percent
increase in finishers from the same 388 U.S. marathons for 2011 and 2012.
Since 1990, there has been more than a 140 percent increase in U.S. marathon
finishers (224,000 vs. 541,000) and over the past decade, a 40 percent increase
(386,000 vs. 541,000).
Oiselle, the women’s running apparel brand based in Seattle, WA said
Kara Goucher, one of the most decorated female runners of all time, has
joined Oiselle as a sponsored athlete and business partner.
Goucher made her marathon debut in New York City in 2008 placing
third. In 2011, she finished fifth at the Boston Marathon and competed in
the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics placing eleventh.
In January 2014, Goucher moved back to Boulder, CO with a goal to train
to qualify for her third Olympic marathon team in 2016.
Goucher’s goals outside of running match closely with Oiselle’s “feminine fierce” mantra. “I am so grateful to be joining Oiselle,” said Goucher.
“I was able to truly ask myself what I believe and search to partner with
a company who shares those beliefs…Oiselle supports women runners
from beginners to Olympians, and celebrates the journey we all take together. Meeting Sally was extremely inspiring to me. She made me want
to be a better version of myself and align with people who share the same
vision. I honestly feel like I have found a home in Oiselle, and look forward
to helping other women find their wings.”
“What I love about Kara is that she dreams big and goes for it,” said
Sally Bergesen, founder and CEO of Oiselle. “Oiselle has also been about
believing in what might otherwise seem impossible. As we grow Oiselle
into a community, and a force at the highest level in our sport, having Kara
join the strength of our existing team, makes the future feel wide open. I
can’t wait to see where we fly next.”
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Running Vendors
Support Track Athletes in USATF Squabble
Brooks, Saucony, Oiselle and CEP Compression all issued statements
supporting its sponsored-track athletes if the Track & Field Athletes
Association calls for a collective action against the USA Track & Field
(USATF), the sports governing body. A potential strike could lead some
athletes to boycott the USA Outdoor Championships, June 26-29, in
Sacramento, CA.
A group representing elite runners, shot putters and pole-vaulters
seeking to unionize are reportedly upset at the way USA Track & Field
runs its meets and applies rules. In February, the TFAA asked USATF
to be allowed to observe protests and appeals at future USATF championship meets following a pair of controversial disqualifications at the
USA Indoor Championships last month in Albuqerque, N.M., noted the
Oregonian. USATF has refused to release the video evidence. The unionization efforts followed the controversial National Labor Relations Board
ruling in late March that designated Northwestern's scholarship football
players as employees and awarded them the right to unionize.
In a statement issued on March 28, the TFAA asked the vendor sponsors for "official recognition" as the "collective voice of elite and professional athletes" and to support the athletes' "rights to participate in TFAA
calls to action." The statement went on to ask sponsors "not to penalize
6 | APRIL 14, 2014
your athletes for participating in collective action" and to enter a clause
stipulating as much "in all future contracts you enter into with track and
field athletes." The statement led to calls of support from Brooks, Saucony,
Oiselle, CEP Compression Sportswear and Team Elliptigo.
“Brooks recognizes the power of teamwork on and off the track,” said
Jesse Williams, sports marketing manager at Brooks Sports. “We’re excited
to see the Track and Field Athletes Association step up to help give all
athletes a voice, and support their desire to work collectively to better the
sport. We stand behind our athletes’ participation in the association and
look forward to their leadership in track and field.”
Added Mark Bossardet, VP, sports marketing at Saucony, “On behalf of
Saucony, we support and recognize TFAA as the organization that represents and protects the rights of ALL elite and professional athletes. Additionally, we will work closely with the TFAA on assuring all athlete rights
are protected.”
Nike, the largest sponsor of the USATF, has not commented on the potential action. The USATF relies on sponsorships for about half its $19 million
budget, according to the Wall Street Journal. The USATF said in late March
that it was appointing a working group to study the issue while indicating
the "process will take place over weeks and months."
Janji co-founders,
Michael Burnstein and
David Spandorfer
Run for Another
The idea for Janji, the socially conscious running
apparel company dedicated to fighting the global
food and water crisis, was born on a bus ride.
Founders David Spandorfer and Michael Burnstein
were members of the crosscountry team at
Washington University in St. Louis heading
to the Division III Championship track meet
and were thinking how lucky they were to be
“Here were two 5’ 7” skinny Jewish boys who
could never have competed at a high level in
anything else,” remarked Spandorfer. “We had
running - and we had the resources to not just
finish a race, but compete at the top of our sport.
We knew we had to find a way to give back
through the sport that gave us so much. When
we got back from the track meet, we applied to
some business plan competitions, won them,
and that gave us the funding and confidence to
launch Janji.”
Based in Boston, Janji – which translates to
"promise" in Malay - sells technical shirts and
shorts with designs based on the flags of developing countries, starting with Haiti and Kenya
but since expanding to add Tanzania, Rwanda,
Bangladesh, Peru, and the U.S. For each item
purchased, approximately $4 is donated to that
country to help solve the problem.
In Haiti, for instance, it works with Meds & Food
for Kids (MFK), a non-profit dedicated to saving
the lives of Haiti's malnourished children and
other nutritionally vulnerable people. The tag
on the shorts and shirts reads, "When you purchase this piece of Janji's Haiti apparel, you give
8 packets of nutritional medicine to a Haitian
child. 25 percent of Haitian children are malnourished. But by providing Janji-sponsored nutritional medicines from Meds and Food for Kids,
a child can become healthy in just 6 weeks! Janji's
Haiti apparel is inspired by the Haitian flag."
In May 2012, Janji sold its first product line
to Big River Running, a specialty running store
in St. Louis, MO where Spandorfer formerly
worked. The line is now in over 100 doors across
the country. With its apparel design director
coming from Nike, Janji seeks to at least match
the quality of other apparel brands in the run
specialty space.
“All of our apparel is designed for runners Mike and I still run 70 plus miles a week,” said
Spandorfer. “We wear test everything, making
sure our apparel not only looks good and does
good, but feels good - even at mile 24 of a marathon.” But the big selling point behind Janji is
both the charity connection and its commitment to independent running stores.
“The response from running stores has been
outstanding,” said Spandorfer. “So many small
running stores are about giving back and changing lives, so it makes sense that they would connect
with a line that does just that.”
With its headquarters located on mile 23.4 of the
Boston Marathon course, Janji’s team was all near
the finish line during the bombing last year and
has a full slate of outreach efforts planned for this
year. Spandorfer’s partner, Burnstein, who finished
68th overall in Boston last year, is training to finish
in the top 50 in 2014. Janji also crowd sourced the
design of a Boston Marathon tee, with proceeds
to the Greater Boston Food Bank. On the night of
the Boston Marathon, a popular band from New
Orleans is being flown up to play a private show with
400 of Janji’s closest friends. All proceeds from the
event will go toward its partnering organizations.
Albeit on a small base, Janji tripled its volume
in 2013, started to expand overseas by opening
with Sweatshop Running store in the U.K., and
launched a team division. But Spandorfer believes
Janji is only starting to tap the running communities’ connection to supporting others.
“We just want to continue to create great apparel
that runners are not just excited to wear, but proud
to wear,” said Spandorfer. “If we keep doing just
that, we can change the world.”
to Sponsor Boston Marathon
Running Team
Yurbuds will sponsor four runners at this year’s Boston Marathon who
were unable to finish last year’s race due to the bombing.
“The Yurbuds #neverstop team symbolizes all of the heroes that ran in
the Boston marathon last year and shows the strength of the running community,” said Daniel DeVille, director of marketing for Yurbuds. “We hope
sponsoring these four runners not only gives them both motivation and inspiration, but also shows our support for the Boston community and honors
all those affected by last year’s tragedy.”
The Four Sponsored Runners of The Yurbuds #Neverstop Team
Erica Nash
• Julie Benson, was participating in last
year’s race to raise funds for the Sandy
Hook Elementary School’s PTA when she
was stopped at mile 25.8.
Weekly Magazine for
the sporting goods industry
Powered by
Julie Benson
Introduces the Honor
Boston Collection
Headsweats has designed a limited edition Honor Boston headwear collection.
Fifty percent of all sales from the Honor
Boston Collection will be donated to The One Fund of Boston, which will
use the funds to offer assistance to the bombing victims and the greater
Boston community.
“As avid supporters of the running community, we wanted to find a way
to honor those who were affected by the terrible events that happened
at the Boston Marathon last year,” stated Mike McQueeney, president of
Headsweats. “The Honor Boston collection provides a way for us to give
back while providing support for those who were affected by this tragedy.”
8 | APRIL 14, 2014
• Erica Nash, a runner from Seattle, WA
with Cerebral Palsy, who was unable to
finish at mile 25.7 due to the sudden
stop of the marathon and a muscle seizure. Currently Erica runs with the use
of an Alter-G, an anti-gravity running
Ginger Cross
Ryan Polly
• Ginger Cross, a qualifying marathoner,
approached the finish line and was caught
between two bombs during the marathon.
Recognizing the impact that the event had
on runners and their families, she created
the 5,700 Boston Strong Facebook Page
where Boston marathoners could come
together to heal as a community.
• Ryan Polly, one of the first in the
running community to respond to the
Boston tragedy, created a race in his
hometown of Williston, VT to raise funds
for the victims and their families. His race
received national attention and raised
more than $17,000, which was donated to
Massachusetts General Hospital and The
One Fund. In the weeks that followed, he
rallied, with a petition of more than 20,000
signees on behalf of the runners. Through
his efforts, the 5,700 runners who did not
finish the race now have the ability to run
this year and see their dream come true.
APRIL 14, 2014 |
Photos courtesy Newton Running
Looks Beyond
By Thomas J. Ryan
n its seventh year of business, Newton Running seems to have caught
a similar “itch” experienced by many married couples. For Newton,
however, the itch is more about its relationship with some runners and
even the run specialty channel, particularly those still viewing the brand as
that “funky niche player,” according to Craig Heisner, president of Newton
Newton has continued to develop
over the last seven years from a “strong
heritage, the awareness that’s been
built, and an incredible tribal following” among triathletes and scores of
runners. Many of the original beliefs
Newton initially brought to the market in 2007, touting the benefits of
lower heel-to-toe construction and
Craig Heisner, president of
gait efficiency, are being adopted by
Newton Running
other running brands. With increasing
awareness also among runners around the importance of efficient running
motion, Newton believes the running market has shifted towards its positioning and that more runners are aware of the benefits of an efficient gait.
“There’s a real acknowledgment by the team that the opportunity to
strike is now,” said Heisner. Still, Newton has many changes set for the
10 | APRIL 14, 2014
current year to capitalize on the opportunity, including losing its tag as the
unconventional choice on the shoe wall.
Heisner acknowledged that the company’s messaging may have come
across as too complicated, leading to the misconception that the shoes
were reserved for a certain class of runners and creating a “nice” perception in the marketplace.
“We’ve always believed that any runner could put on a pair of Newton’s,
experience a better run, and this might be somewhat contrary to how the
brand was initially presented,,” said Heisner. “Our simplified message, that
Newton’s are for every runner, will be loud and clear from us this year.”
Heisner also said he believes Newton’s product line overall remained
quite consistent over the last seven years, but that both retailers and runners are interested in something fresh and more diversified. In response
to the market’s evolving over the next seven months, Newton will launch
more product than the brand has over the last seven years.
The big thrust is expected to come from the introduction of +ONE
technology, which adds a fifth lug to Newton’s award-winning four-lug
Action/Reaction cushioning system, with the goal of broadening Newton’s
appeal to more runners. With some reviewers considering the collection
Newton’s transition shoes, the technology is featured in four models:
the Gravity III and Motion III mileage trainers and the Distance III and
Distance S III speed trainers.
With the lugs aligning to the foot’s five metatarsal bones, the shoes deliver more cushioning
and greater responsiveness but are 25 percent
more stable in the forefoot. Heisner said with
Newton’s classic four-lug outsole, some runners
felt unstable at times because they could fall on
the medial and lateral side. He added, “We’ve extended that platform across the entire forefoot of
the shoe so it certainly makes a noticeable difference in the ride – very smooth, considerably
more stable, considerably more cushioning, and
more familiar to most runners without compromising that unique Newton ride.”
The outsole has been improved to add 20 to
30 percent greater durability and traction. While
in the past Newton’s shoes shared tooling with
subtle nuances, the four models have unique
tooling. The Motion III and Distance S III, for
instance, add a new Extended Medial Bridge
(E.M.B) for a broader platform and added stability. The four shoes also feature unique upper
designs whereas in the past they’ve shared upper
designs and generally differentiated with color.
The new Mileage and Speed Trainers also debut major design changes that appear in all new
Newton Running shoes throughout 2014. The
changes include welded instead of stitched overlays, 360-degree reflectivity and subtle two-tone
designs on the metatarsal stretch panels.
The Gravity III and Motion III maintain a
3mm drop from heel-to-toe, and the Distance
III and Distance S III still have a 2mm drop. This
near-level platform supports a more balanced,
natural posture, which is an essential component to efficient running.
“We’ve looked at all of the concerns or roadblocks that have precluded runners from getting
in our shoes and trying them out,” said Heisner.
“I think we now offer a more familiar feel, without compromising what we stand for.”
Beyond the initial launch, Newton will flow
in product during the second and third quarter
with each program offering “subtly unique differences in ride and positioned toward different types of consumers.” The effort is known
internally as its POP (point of power) Program. For the first time, Newton will land in
the $100 to $140 “kill zone” at run specialty
with shoes on the lower-end priced from $110
to $129 while continuing to offer its premium
models at $155 to $175.
Gravity III
Motion III
Distance III
Distance S III
Overall, Heisner said that even though the
“subtle nuanced improvements” are designed
to reach a broader audience, the overall line still
leverages its Action/Reaction technology and
remains “very tight” with a focus on stability
and neutral models driven by gait, foot structure
and runner type. Added Heisner, “Truthfully, we
feel we have a line that fits perfectly together and
addresses the needs of many different types of
Outside the wider breadth of products and
+ONE, perhaps even more of a shocking change
will be Newton’s introduction of “more mainstream colorways” in the future. Heisner noted
the wild colors often wound up as the primary
reason some runners didn’t try the shoes. Said
Heisner, “Some folks just don’t like to bring that
much attention to their feet.”
Still, bright pallet tones – even that “the
fourth or fifth annoying color” – will remain a
“signature” differential for Newton. While bright
colors are also being seen on other running
brands, Heisner suspects they’ll eventually shift
back to more neutral tones, making Newton
again stand out. Said Heisner, “It’s a big brand
component of who we are.”
While Newton’s marketing budget isn’t noticeably increasing, a greater percentage of the
spend will focus on supporting retailers. Said
Heisner, “That could come in a lot of different
forms. But it’s not just sending POP that ends up
in the trash, but truly building launch programs
around our new products and in general offering more support to them day-in and day-out.”
It includes a greater emphasis on push/pull
tactics with its field marketing team to build
greater awareness in local communities. While
continuing to hold its two-day clinics for retailers, called School of Running, at its headquarters in Boulder, CO, more clinics will be held in
local markets. Heisner said that while Newton
benefits from insights gained from participating
retailers with its clinics, the goal is to have retailers better understand Newton’s technologies and
“Hopefully, it lowers the anxiety that some of
them have shared with how to pull our product
and present it,” said Heisner.
While Newton isn’t walking away from traditional media, 2014 will mark a greater shift
toward social media and digital platforms. The
move aims to “take advantage of the unique
tribal following that we have and better leverage
the voices of evangelists that are already part of
Newton nation.”
With a much-smaller marketing budget
versus most competitors, Heisner believes the
digital focus will provide better metrics around
whether Newton’s message is being heard. Said
Heisner, “We’re seeing some significant returns
already on some of the things that we’ve been
able to do online.”
Newton will look to better leverage its standing as the official run course and shoe sponsor of
Ironman in the U.S. While Newton has garnered
“tremendous awareness” among triathletes, the
message will be intensified that Newton is “a
running brand.”
Newton’s team of elite marathoners and
triathletes will seek to gain more exposure on
the national level versus regional wins in the
past. The steady wins add credibility to Newton’s
APRIL 14, 2014 |
product but Heisner said it also helps that each athlete also embraces
Newton’s message and culture. Said Heisner, “We have great advocates for
our brand who have had a tremendous amount of success and that success
will be on a larger and larger scale in the next year.”
Other innovative outreach approaches are promised with the February
hiring of Mike Nesladek, who recently worked on the Bud Light, Michelob
ULTRA and Budweiser Select brands for Anheuser-Busch InBev, as its
VP of marketing. While not expected to bring Newton a Super Bowl ad,
Heisner described Nesladek as a “true Newtonite,” having run in Newtons
for years. With wide experience in sports marketing, he expects Nesladek
to bring a “fresh perspective” on building a brand with runners and in the
run specialty space.
Operationally, Newton has expanded its field marketing and rep team
to cover more territories since Heisner, who’s resume includes senior-level
roles in the running business units at New Balance, Reebok, and Brooks,
where as head of marketing and product, he was a major driver of the strategy for growth enjoyed by the brand today. He joined Newton as president
in March 2013. Last year, Tom Curran was promoted to director of sales,
Specialty Running, to support its run focus. The supply chain has also received greater investments with an emphasis around delivery and quality.
Newton has generated double-digit growth since its first year, when it
was founded by Jerry Lee, CEO, and Danny Abshire, chief technical officer. It’s now in about 600 independent specialty running shops in the U.S.
Heisner, “Not surprisingly we do really well with a much smaller number
of those stores, Our goal is to really move some of the tier B-level stores
into A-level stores.”
For some owners, that will involve convincing them that Newton isn’t
a minimalist brand. Beyond bright colors, Newton was best known in its
12 | APRIL 14, 2014
arrival for its unique lower heel-to-ball offset and for touting the benefits of
natural running, Messages were also addressed to some degree by Vibram
FiveFingers and other minimalist models. While Newton found “some
advantages” in being associated with the minimal/barefoot movement
in its heady days, “ultimately the guilt by association has not helped us
because we never positioned ourselves as a minimalist brand.”
But with other mainstream brands also shifting to lower stack heights, a
trend he expects will continue, Heisner believes Newton has secured “ownership of the benefits that are ultimately delivered by greater efficiency running.”
Overall, Heisner believes the shift toward emphasizing cushioning and
even maximalism, is healthy. It shows the industry remains open to ”at
least exploring and promoting different ways to think about running and
that’s good for the business and good for the sport.”
At the same time, with more brands telling a cushioning story, the trend
will help Newton further stand out.
“Maximalism goes against the philosophy that we believe in,” said
Heisner. “We actually believe that the relationship with the ground is good
and healthy. We believe ground communication is important to our story
around efficiency. So you won’t see us chasing the maximalist trend. We’ll
stay true to who we are.”
The overall ambitious goal is to increase Newton’s current share of
1.5 to 2 percent share in the run specialty channel to reach 10 percent
within the next two to three years, with momentum built on a continuing
good response to +ONE. Added Heisner, “Having been part of brands that
tip, I know that could be slower or that could be a heck of a lot faster.”
But its broader product line, product tweaks, outreach efforts and with
market trends working in Newton’s favor, Heisner believes converting a
few more retailers into Newtonites will pave the way. ■
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The Sock Wall
An Integral Part Of The Athletic
Footwear Experience
By Scott Boulbol
hat not so long ago was no more than an afterthought – which
socks to use for the day’s activity – has become a key decision
in many athletic pursuits. Increasing numbers of outdoor athletes even
office workers have discovered the considerable benefits of performance socks.
With steady growth in recent years, performance socks remain a potential growth item at retail. But convincing dyed-in-the-cotton consumers can be difficult, especially with a typical pair of performance
socks running $10 and more at retail, and $50 or more for compression
socks – compared to six or seven bucks for a three-pack of low-tech
socks dubiously marketed as performance at a big box store.
14 | APRIL 14, 2014
But with a few common sense practices, retailers and vendors
can still profit from the potential cash cow (sheep?) that is a true
performance sock. A few key techniques in packaging, display,
and POP promotions, etc., and more labor-intensive and expensive, but highly rewarding, training and employee/consumer
field-testing programs can both help assure strong sales.
But first, what defines a true performance sock? Most specialty
retailers and vendors agree that cotton is a definite no-no. From
there, the idea of technical fibers can vary considerably, but all
agree they must have a combination of characteristics key to
athletic use.
Photo courtesy Feetures!
“Performance socks have several common denominators: arch support,
seamless toe, selective cushioning, ventilation, and moisture-wicking
fibers,” said Jeff Wheeler, VP hosiery sales for Sof Sole. We would add
durability and the ability to maintain form and support even when wet.
And recently more specialized socks have joined the fray, including toe
socks that allow for the toes to splay more naturally, compression for
improved circulation, and even wind and waterproofing for use in harsher
weather. The common players include polyester (although many would
argue this is not truly a performance fiber), nylon, and of course Coolmax
and merino wool.
The most effective practice according to vendors and retailers is, not
surprisingly, educating the consumer or retail staff. Product demonstrations, field testing, training seminars and product testing are as crucial
for sales staff in convincing consumers that this is a necessary accessory.
And those staffers can use some of the same tools on their customers,
perhaps on a smaller scale. It’s especially important with something like
socks, where customers can be quite skeptical of the need to spend the
extra money.
For vendors, that education
of course has to start with the
sales staff. The consumer can’t
be educated without a highly
motivated, knowledgeable clerk,
preferably with experience of the
product’s benefits in the field.
George Schott, VP of sales and
marketing for Injinji said he’s
seen remarkable results with a
simple education campaign. One
George Schott, VP sales and
of the retailers carrying his socks,
marketing, Injinji
where there was little effort made
to educate the staff, was seeing very poor sales.
“I sat down personal with the staff and discussed in detail the benefits
of high-performance socks and what makes ours superior,” he recalled.
“The results were amazing. We managed to double our sales at the store in
about two weeks.”
Smartwool’s Steve Metcalf, global
director of strategic communications
added, “We don't just rely on the Sales
Reps and Agents to educate our retailers.
We have a nationwide team that 'clinics'
our accounts seasonally and not only
talks about the performance attributes
of SmartWool products, but also the
performance attributes of SmartWool
products married with, for instance,
a new pair of running shoes or hiking
And that educated staff passes on the
Steve Metcalf, global director
of strategic communications,
knowledge to the consumer. In her 15 years
in various roles with Boulder Running
Company, district manager Amanda Charles has tried all sorts of techniques, and said a hands-on, experiential education is by far the most
effective. “I engage consumers in the conversation by asking them if
they recall what happened the last time they sweated in a cotton tee shirt.
The shirt absorbs that moisture and
becomes a wet towel on the body,”
she said. “Explaining the ‘how’ behind that and then the moisture
wicking properties of technical
fabrics enables the consumer to
begin to say ‘aha, I understand!’
With the customer engaged and
intrigued, her next step is focusing on what happens inside a shoe
with a cotton sock – its inability to
maintain shape inside the shoe as
Amanda Charles, district manager
moisture (read: blister potenBoulder Running Company
tial, hot spots, etc.). To seal the deal
she has customers try on a technical sock on one foot versus their cotton
sock on the other to feel the difference in fit and slippage, etc.
The more tangible the benefit, the more powerful this hands-on approach can be. For instance, socks with distinctive characteristics, like
compression for instance, are perfect candidates for this approach: the
consumer is much more likely to accept the technology as legitimate after
trying them on.
Photo courtesy Boulder Running Company
Seal Skinz, makers of waterproof, breathable socks for various outdoor
sports, takes this approach to a successful extreme. They’ll actually have customers or retailers don their socks and stand in a bucket of water to demonstrate the waterproof qualities. There’s a caveat here, though – make sure the
test is absolutely fail-proof, or it could have the opposite effect.
Of course not every vendor can do this with every retailer, so Schott recommends online training tools like the website which provides a venue for vendors to upload the educational materials, and retailers
to get their info from a computer rather than an in-house lecture. The site
also provides testing programs for sales staff, where they can read through
the vendors’ lessons, and take tests to prove their knowledge.
APRIL 14, 2014 |
1:31 PM
SPRING into action with the
improved comfort and
breathability of the patented
16 | APRIL 14, 2014
Schott said these work best when tangible rewards are married
to good test results. He’ll offer comp rewards or discounts on products to retailers for their efforts. And the more lessons/tests taken
the greater the rewards. This works on two levels, he said: First, it
gives incentive for the staff to get the knowledge, without the time
and effort needed for in-store seminars. And it also puts product in
their hands to try out for themselves, without the vendor having to
simply give it away.
Pairing socks with shoe purchases can also be very effective. It
not only adds a sock sale to a shoe
purchase, for instance, but it reinforces the idea that socks are an integral part of the athletic footwear
experience. A high-tech shoe deserves an equally high-tech sock.
But while more basic pricereductions will definitely increase
sales, there’s a concern that these
should be chosen carefully, as they
can send the wrong message. “As
for promotions, we are not fans
of the buy one get one free promotions beyond a few targeted
Luke Rowe, Fleet Feet’s SVP of opportunities, and definitely not on
business development
a day-to-day basis,” admitted Luke
Rowe, Fleet Feet’s SVP of business development. “We feel that
when you rely on price… you devalue the sock. You are using price
instead of the benefit of the product to close the deal.”
For those customers who prefer to choose for themselves, the most
important sales tool is proper packaging and display. According to our
experts, the rules of thumb here are to: keep it simple and clean; make
it pop; provide just enough tech to intrigue but not overwhelm.
“Time is a precious commodity; you need to win people over in
bullet points that are concise and justify the product, Charles said.
“I understand [vendors] are proud of their technology, however not
a lot of people want to know the ‘how’ of something, they want the
‘what,’” she said.
As for visuals she added, “When Feetures introduced gold on
their Elite packaging, I swear they might as well have put [actual]
gold on that packaging. It pops off the rack, and screams high
value.” She also suggested packaging can easily allow the customer
to touch and remove the product, and quickly replace it.
Jim Einhauser, EVP of marketing and sales for the 150 year-old
Wigwam agreed “Obviously, in a store environment, packaging is
key: simple, concise messaging that allows a consumer to make a
choice for their specific need. Sock walls have exploded in size, and
getting recognized on the wall is paramount. We work with buyers,
and also with a store's merchandising team and media teams [to
accomplish this].”
That sock wall, rather than various, separated displays, seems to
be the favorite, as it accentuates the importance of socks, and the
store’s commitment to them, while allowing the customer to compare products directly.
“Personally I prefer what I would call the ‘Wall of Socks,’” said
Rowe. “Many customers will come to us for reasons other than to
purchase footwear, and you want to show them that you are in the
sock business, and make sure they remember that you carry a great
selection of socks.” ■
APRIL 14, 2014 |
Much More than Cushioning
By Thomas J. Ryan
ushioning is making a big comeback in 2014 at least in the all-important run footwear category. The arrival is most visible with the chatter around max-cushioned product like Hoka One One and its imitators as
well as heralded arrivals such as Brooks Transcend and New Balance’s Fresh
Foam 980 in the neutral category promising to put more foam underfoot
for a softer ride.
With the shift away from more minimalist styles, partly due to the
hype that is naturally dying down but also because of injuries sustained
while running on ultra-thin outsoles, some say it’s putting more attention on the importance of the protection that comes from cushioned
“Runners of all levels are constantly pounding their shoes no matter
what terrain they run on and a cushioned and supportive shoe model is
crucial,” said Glenn Barrett, OrthoLite’s CEO. “This need strengthens
the importance of each shoe having the right components.”
David Church, president, Sorbothane, also sees the conversation
around cushioning pointing to the benefits of insoles. His findings were
supported by a recent focus group about insoles with a clear request for
more comfort, natural support and impact protection
“Active consumers are asking for a way to add cushioning, absorb
shock and put comfort back into their workouts,” said Church. “This has
always been the strength of Sorbothane insoles. Whether walking, running or standing - consumers are looking for a quality insole that will
support and cradle their foot in comfort and provide a layer of impact
Some believe any shift away from minimal to more neutral and light
stability doesn’t impact the insole buying decision.
“To me the story is the same: What you put under your foot matters,”
said Ellen Harwick, communications manager at Superfeet. “Regardless
of the thickness of the shoe midsole, the midsole itself is still relatively
18 | APRIL 14, 2014
Photo courtesy Garrett Grove and Superfeet
two-dimensional, flat, and unsupportive. The
benefit of Superfeet insoles provides the foot a
three-dimensional platform that helps adapt the
two-dimensional midsole of any shoe to the person’s three-dimensional foot. This helps to improve the fit and comfort of the footwear, while
also providing the traditional benefits associated
with a supportive insole.”
Jeff Antonioli, Spenco’s VP of sales and marketing, added that the quality of insoles in your
shoes - whether they are highly cushioned or
not - is still very important because a cushioned
shoe does not automatically come with a superior insole. In fact, the opposite is more likely true.
“Most runners still have the same foot strike,
roll, and push-off no matter what kind of shoe
they are in, and orthotic insoles aid those biomechanics,” said Antonioli. “Spenco's insoles
complement the highly cushioned shoe in that
they also provide proper arch support, which
can help reduce injury. We recommend Spenco
insoles no matter what shoe you train or race in
– that inner support still matters.
Evan Wert, President of Icebug USA, distributor of ArchFlex insoles, also believes that the trend
away from zero drop or flat shoes for runners to
what seems like a sweet spot between 4-to-8mm
is also a positive for insoles. “We are seeing that
consumers still want to have an insole that helps
"bridge" the gap between the shoe and the foot,”
said Wert. “This makes the shoe fit better and
helps to eliminate the chance of hot spots, blisters, or other issues. It also has gotten the industry to develop lighter and better fitting insoles
for today's shoes.”
For spring 2104, insole suppliers continue to
offer a variety for different foot types to cover
the needs of a wide range of activities. Some are
lower profile with less cushioning and some offer considerably more cushioning, but all promise shock absorption, comfort, and in many
cases work to relieve pain.
Sof Sole is introducing the first insole designed to treat plantar fasciitis, one of the most
common foot ailments to the specialty marketplace. There is no “break-in” period with the
insole. It is marketed as comfortable, right outof- the-box for $20. The composite nylon plate
flexes to support and remain in contact with
arches throughout the gait cycle for pain relief
associated with plantar fasciitis. The gel drop
and memory foam in the heel add comfort and
the 4/5 length design fits any shoe.
Available exclusively to the independent specialty retailers, Powerstep's Pulse Performance
Orthotics, $38, feature built-in arch support and
heel cradle to stabilize the foot and improve alignment. The
motion control, with targeted dual-layer cushioning, helps
to absorb shock at impact to reduce stress on the feet, ankles
and joints. The spring-like action of the polypropylene shell
provides bounce back with each stride. Pulse insoles are easily sized by shoe size and require no in-store modification or
“Powerstep orthotics do more than temporarily cushion the
feet,” said Jennifer Hoane, director of marketing and customer
service at Remington Products Co., the owner of the Powerstep
insole line. “By combining balance, support, and cushioning,
Powerstep products relieve foot pain and often prevent common foot conditions from developing.”
Sorbothane is introducing the SorboAir Replacement Insole
featuring a lightweight air-infused Sorbothane foam base for
heel-to-toe comfort for $22. A pure Sorbothane heel absorbs up
to 94.7 percent of impact shock while a lightweight base layer
cradles the foot in natural air-infused Sorbothane. The insole
also features a Poron liner for moisture management, cushioning, and a brushed-top, anti-microbial cover.
At Hickory Brands, its in-house brand, 10-Seconds, is introducing the Flat Foot Sport designed for low to flat arches
for $35. The patented insole controls the pronation through
the gait cycle with a varus wedge that extends to the toes preventing the foot and ankle from turning inward. A layer of
Poron cushions and absorbs shock to the foot with an antifriction and antimicrobial top cover.
A New Balance licensee, Hickory Brands will also introduce
the New Balance Supportive Cushion Insole for $45 that
features a padded arch rise designed to support the plantar
fascia tendon that helps to relieve and/or prevent plantar
fasciitis. A deep heel cup and Abzorb cushioning provides
support and cushions both short and long runs. The top
cover and foams are antimicrobial.
Spenco is partnering this spring with the Ironman series
and will introduce the Ironman Race and Ironman Train
Insoles each at $50. Ironman replacement insoles incorporate
Spenco Total Support Technology and the patent-pending
3-POD Modulation System. By positioning pods with varying
degrees of hardness beneath key areas of the foot, Total
Support Insoles change the ground forces impacting the foot
during activity for better performance and comfort while
helping to reduce over-pronation.
“Our Ironman Train insoles provide rigid arch support
for demanding training,” added Antonioli. “Race insoles are
lightweight with a flexible arch for race day. They both offer
a combination of cushioning and stability suited to the demands of training and racing.” Antonioli said store personnel
should know what the customer’s goals, training regimen, and
foot type are to recommend the right insole.
Masterfit customizes all their insoles to varying degrees
to the end-users’ feet. Said Steve Cohen, CEO at Masterfit
Enterprises, “That means that consumers get insoles that are
shaped to their feet for maximum support and comfort and
retailers don’t need to carry as many SKUs to fit a wide variety of feet.”
Sof Sole plantar
fasciitis sole
Powerstep's Pulse
Performance Orthotics
Sorbothane SorboAir
Replacement Insole
Hickory Brands Flat Foot Sport
Hickory Brands New Balance
Supportive Cushion Insole
Spenco Ironman Race and
Ironman Train Insoles
APRIL 14, 2014 |
Photo courtesy Garrett Grove and Superfeet
Designed for use in all active footwear
with patented Wear-N-Form technology,
Masterfit’s EZ·Fit Terra Cut-To-Fit Insole
personalizes the shape to fit a person’s heel
and arch shape. The Terra, priced at $40,
uses a full-length cushion comfort cradle
of EVA with a semi-rigid, three-quarter
length support shell for heel stabilization
and balance. It has shock-tuned Poron pads
under the heel and met head to dampen
impact during heel strike and toe-off.
Masterfit’s microwavable Zapz, $60,
Masterfit’s EZ·Fit Terra
Cut-To-Fit Insole
provides doctor-style custom insoles at a
fraction of the cost. Based on the EZ Fit
design with Wear-N-Form technology in the heels, Zapz’s big differential
is its patented, exclusive-to-Masterfit
InstaForm Gel Arch. When heated in a
microwave for just a minute, the InstaForm Gel softens, contours, and volumeadjusts to the natural shape of the arch.
Cohen said, “If you can trace, trim, and
make popcorn, you can make Zapz.”
Reebok CCM entered the insole category last year aiming directly at the ice skate category. Jeff Dalzell, senior
business director, skates, said skate insoles commented that insoes “tend to
take a beating” in hockey from wear but also sweat that adds an excessive
20 | APRIL 14, 2014
amount of moisture to the insole. Until recently,
"no one was really adding any technology" to the
traditional hockey replacement insole.
Developed in partnership with CurrexSox,
Reebok's CCM Custom Support Insoles feature
curEVA shock-absorbing material and Auto Heel
technology for cushioning and comfort for $50.
A Dynamic Arch Cradle (DAC) redistributes
pressure evenly while working to stabilize
excessive movement. Breathable top-level
fabric helps with moisture management. The
Reebok's CCM
insoles are available in high, medium and lowCustom Support
arch heights. A Footdisc system defines the
arch type within 15 seconds. "I believe we’re
pushing the upper limit in terms of what’s
done at the retail level that doesn’t go to the
orthotic level," said Dalzell.
Sidas uses a three-arch height philosophy
for fitting shelf insoles. “Each has a unique
construction based on the foot’s morphology,” said Jay Taylor, president and CEO at The
Soze Group, the North American distributor
for the French-based brand. “For example
the Sidas High Arch 3Feet All-Year Insoles
have more padding under the metatarsal
Sidas High Arch 3Feet
area to help cushion a ridged foot type.”
All-Year Insoles
Priced at $45, key features include perforations for breathability, a forefoot pad for added cushioning, and anatomical construction adapted for
low, medium and high arch types. “We use a patented sizing system that
uses pressure analysis to choose an insole for the consumer on the retail
floor. The POP enclosed with the rack will link back the foot shape to the
appropriate insole,” said Taylor.
At Superfeet, the big story
here is its release of the Carbon
Insole for $50. It is the thinnest
insole in its line with a blend
of proprietary materials. EVOLyte contributes to a strong
heel cap. The style also includes Carbon Insole
the ADD/APTTM System, a
new durable, lightweight foam for Superfeet.
“Carbon is an interesting combination of features, all in a low-profile,
lightweight package,” said Harwick. “EVOLyte provides retailers the option
to fit more feet in more types of shoes. Carbon can be ideal for a range of
footwear from lightweight running shoes (minimalist or not) and cleats,
to tight-fitting approach shoes or stylish casual shoes. Carbon is a blend
of lightweight design and high-performance support. We have even found
some ski boot retailers fitting customers with Carbon in their ski boots.
Shock Doctor will introduce its Active
Trim-Free Insoles for $20. Designed specifically to be added on top of an existing
insole for more support, the Active TrimFree offers many of the same benefits as
a full-length insole but is easier to fit into
shoes with little extra toe room. The threequarter length shock-absorbing foam proShock Doctor
vides comfort and support, and reduces
Active Trim-Free Insoles
fatigue and stress. Other features include
Adaptive Arch Technology that adapts to the shape of the foot, shock absorbing foam that contains air channels to improve comfort and air flow, a
butterfly control bar to align the foot and control pronation, and an antimicrobial top cover for moisture management.
Jason Richter, senior director of product marketing at Shock Doctor,
believes that consumers are getting mixed and inconsistent messages from
shoe companies with the shifting trends. “From the very beginning, we’ve
been very consistent about support, stability and shock absorption with
our insoles,” said Richter. “This helps reduce the everyday wear and tear
an athlete’s foot goes through. We also point out that our insoles can make
your shoe perform as it was intended right out of the box even several
months later. We like to think of insoles as providing
additional support, stability and shock absorption and
complementing the shoe, even after it starts to break
OrthoLite’s open-cell foam technology is found in
more than 140 million pairs of athletic, casual, dress, work,
and outdoor shoes every year but can also be found in the
OrthoLite Fusion Insole for $20. “OrthoLite’s advanced,
proprietary polyurethane formula with recycled rubber
content holds the distinction of being the only open
cell foam insole combining long-lasting cushioning,
breathability, and durable moisture management,” said OrthoLite Fusion
Barrett. Working with its brand partners to address the
specific performance characteristics, OrthoLite continues to introduce
proprietary foam formulations that can be tailored to different shoes types
including Lazy recovery foam, Impressions, X-40 High Rebound, ESD
Static Control, ECO and 3D-SKIVE.
For cold weather, ThermaCELL
Heated Insoles
Heated Insoles, $130, include three
and ProFLEX
temperature settings – no heat, meHeated Insoles
dium heat (100°F) and high heat
(111°F) - that are controlled by a wireless remote to customize temperature
without removing shoes or boots.
The battery lasts up to five hours per
charge; quality tested by SATRA, and
can be trimmed for a customer fit. For
fall 2014, the ProFLEX Heated Insoles,
$179, will add ultra-flex material, a removable
rechargeable battery, and UBS charging for
extendable use.
For store associate, Josh Silvia, marketing
manager for Schawbel Technologies,
ThermaCELL’s parent, said that when
purchasing new footwear specifically for
this product, it might be worth buying a half
size larger. He added that it “Works best in
insulated boots, but should work in almost all
Mike Baker, CEO of Sole, said that Sole footbeds have always been intended to work in a neutral shoe. “The majority of the cushioning required
by the customer should be built into the shoe, not the footbed,” said Baker.
“The cushioning in our footbeds exists to accommodate the volume of the
shoe. The cushioning and support will not hinder our product.”
All Sole footbeds offer the same amount of
custom support but have three levels of cushioning with the Softec Ultra, $45, at 3.2mm,
Softec Response, $45, at 1.6mm, and Thin
Sport, $60, offering zero cushioning. “Sole
footbeds remain supportive by adapting to
your foot type without flattening out,” said
Key selling points for Sole footbeds is its
moldable orthopedic EVA layer with an easy
5-minute, in-store or at-home molding proSole Softec
cess. When molded, the footbeds reduce
plantar fascia strain by an average of 34 percent. Sole also does not
control the rear foot but continues to offer plantar fascia support so the
foot can move naturally. “This combination allows for a better fit for
the majority of the population,” said Baker.
At Footbalance, the Dynamic Blue Insole, $80, with a high density 3.0mm EVA
footbed represents the brand’s all-around,
custom-molded insole. It offers high-tech
Dynamic Blue
polyester fabric with a sanitized antibacInsole
terial treatment that wicks moisture from the foot for a cool, friction-free
surface. It’s ideal for recreational and performance athletes.
For Nordic skiing, downhill skiing, mountain biking, snowshoeing,
etc., their Performance Insole, $80, is designed for light support with a
APRIL 14, 2014 |
minimalistic feel with dynamic energy
return. The Game, $80, is designed for
high-impact, court sports for greater shock
absorption, stability and injury prevention.
Todd Poseley, Footbalance’s North
America VP of sales, said cushioning is just
one aspect of a quality footbed; a properly
fit footbed will help support, align, and stabilize the lower body. “It is not a corrective
device, it is an accommodative device,” said
Poseley. “A good footbed will complement
Footbalance Game
the cushioning properties of footwear and
still give sufficient support.”
He added, “Look at a stock insole in virtually any shoe on the market,
athletic or otherwise, and the lack of support will be obvious, a thin piece
of EVA just doesn’t cut it. While we want to provide a custom footbed for
the customer, you may think of it as customizing the fit of the shoe they will
wear as they walk out the door. No matter what type of footwear, the insert
needs to connect the actual foot to the footwear as a dynamic and well-fitted
Described as “the insole you treat like a sock,” SoxsolS work as a hybrid sock and insole because they lay flat in the footbed and provide some
cushioning like an insole, but also have a washable and dryer-safe fabric
material like a sock. Designed for walking shoes, SoxsolS can be trimmed
to fit any footbed and prevent sandals and shoes from absorbing sweat.
“The important thing for in-store staff to know is how widely applicable
22 | APRIL 14, 2014
this product is and, to be frank, what it is,” said Stanley Tollett, marketing
director, SoxsolS. “It can be trimmed to fit almost any shoe, it prevents
sweat from soaking in and staining footbeds. It therefore can be sold as
an enhancement and add-on
Icebug Footwear
product with virtually every sale
ArchFlex Insoles
of footwear. It is a tremendous
value both to the retailer and the
end consumer.”
Icebug Footwear is rolling out
its line of ArchFlex Insoles, designed by Ortolab AB, the leading Scandinavian orthopedics
lab and are available in three arch
shapes: low, medium, and high. The big difference with ArchFlex is that it
addresses all three foot arches: medial, lateral, and transverse. Most insoles
do not address the transverse - right behind the ball of the foot - since it's
difficult to place correctly under the foot.
"ArchFlex is able to do this by developing the proper shape, having
10 sizes per style so that the placement is graded properly, and by allowing
the pad to "flex" slightly underfoot," said Wert.
Another key difference is that the whole insole is designed to be more
"dynamic" as the customer steps down with the aid of ArchFlex's unique
blend of materials and design. The dynamic support means the natural movement of the arches is not blocked, instead they offer the proper
amount of support through the entire gait, supporting the arches even
when your full body weight is over the foot. ■
Brushed Fabric
Cover Wicks
Over 30 Years
of Protection
and Pure
Poron® Liner
Adds Cushioning
Air-Infused Base
For Support
Gel Metatarsal Insert
Returns Energy
Sorbothane® Heel Insert
Cushions Impact Shock
& Provides Comfort
Ultra Sole
[email protected]
APRIL 14, 2014 |
800.838.3906 23
Some obvious, and not so
obvious, pointers on how to
sell insoles.
By Thomas J. Ryan
t the store level, selling insoles is
all about introduction, explanation, and trial. But often, it comes down
to getting a conversation going around
“We like to use the ‘Why, Try, Buy’ technique,” said Drew Davies, national sales
manager, Sof Sole. “For the ‘Why’ part,
we explain to customers that it improves
the comfort of their shoe, it improves the
performance of their shoe, reduces impact
and stress on your joints and muscles as
well as helps to keep feet cool and dry.
“For the ‘Try’ part, which is very important in the sale of an insole, we like to have
the associate ask the customer what kinds
of activities they plan to do in their shoes,
then explain to them the advantages that
having an insole in the shoe can give them
while doing these activities. We like to try
and have the associate bring out one shoe
with one of our insoles in it and another
shoe with the stock liner in it when trying
on the shoe and have them tell which shoe
feels better. Comparing the stock liner to
our insoles after having them try them on
is a great selling tool.
24 | APRIL 14, 2014
“For the ‘Buy’ part we let the customer know
that our insoles will improve the comfort and
performance of any shoe for any activity you will
be doing in those shoes. We also offer a 30-day
money back comfort guarantee, and a one-year
warranty against defects. All-in-all it is a risk
free purchase for the customer.”
Jeff Antonioli, Spenco’s VP of sales and marketing, said an obvious sales strategy is to point
out that most manufacturers of running shoes
invest very little in the insole while investing
plenty in the rest of the shoe.
“That’s why many experienced athletes replace
the out-of-the-box insole immediately, and yet
there is still an education effort that needs to
take place among elite athletes and weekend
warriors,” noted Antonioli. “Having the extra
support, fit and cushion can help prevent injury
while improving posture and performance.
Weekend warriors may be less biomechanically
correct than elite athletes, so even though they
may not be running long distances, they can
benefit from the support of a good insole.”
Todd Poseley, FootBalance’s North America
VP of sales, said it’s important that store associates qualify a customer for their footbed just
as they should for their footwear. Considering
their current footwear, discussing their primary
activity, expected time or use across all activities,
as well as any physical problems or conditions
should be taken into consideration.
“Many people will come in for a specific issue
(like pain, shin splints, heel spurs, etc.) and you
need the ability to correctly fit the existing footwear in addition to other end-use shoes or activities,” said Poseley. “The needs of a high level cyclist will differ greatly from those of a recreational
runner or an everyday casual shoe, the proper
model is just as important as the final custom fit.”
Michael Baker, president and CEO of Sole,
said that an obvious footbed sale are to those
customers already coming into the store with
foot pain, looking for a solution. He noted that
the American Physical Therapy Association
(APTA) and American College of Foot and
Ankle have stated in their clinical guidelines that
OTC insoles are the first phase of care in treating
plantar fasciitis.
Around the fit process, he urges associates
to fit to the arch, rather than the length of the
foot. Baker added, “When looking at the foot
from the medial side, it should look like the arch
shape of the footbed is cradling the individual's
arch. It should feel comfortable for the consumer. For the majority of the population there is an
insole that will fit well.”
David Church, president at Sorbothane, said
it helps if the sales associates wear insoles themselves and can personally recommend the product based on experience. Added Church, “Customers will listen to your firsthand professional
For Sorbothane, sales associates can also
use the Sorbothane Grip Strengthener, which
strengthens fingers and wrists, to demonstrate
how efficiently and naturally Sorbothane absorbs energy and then returns to its original
shape under its own power.
Baker noted that molding the footbed in a
regular toaster oven in-store could serve as a
differential and personalize the store experience.
Also helping to reassure any doubts about
the value of insoles is informing the customer
about each brand’s heritage, noted Antonioli,
pointing to Spenco’s 46-year history as a pioneer
of podiatry and sports medicine.
Ellen Harwick, communications manager at
Superfeet, said involving the customer in the fitting process, with simple and concise explanations, is critical to establishing their trust.
“At Superfeet, we like to focus on discussing
the ‘benefit’ of our insoles rather than whether
or not a given customer may ‘need’ one of our
insoles,” said Harwick. “For some customers that
benefit could be as simple as the shoe fitting better, while for others the benefit could be helping
to resolve pain or injury. Whatever the benefits
may be, the key is presenting the insole as part of
the solution (along with shoes, socks, nutrition,
etc.) for that customer, and doing so consistently
for all customers. This allows each customer to
make an educated buying decision based on the
recommendations and explanations of the fitter.”
Just getting the conversation pointed toward
accessories can also lead to a sale.
“Ask the customer if they have their running
socks? Did they bring their insoles? Do they use
insoles?” said Jay Taylor, president and CEO at
The Soze Group, the North American distributors for Sidas. “Then we can get into the discussion about picking the appropriate running shoe
once we have a clear vision on the other inputs
that they are going to use. If they don’t have an
insole, this is the perfect time to suggest one."
Evan Wert, president of Icebug USA,
distributor of ArchFlex Insoles, said removing
socks can create some “personal contact”
between the customer and the associate while
also enabling the associate to spot any obvious
callouses, red spots or blisters that may help
guide that person into the right shoe and insole.
Watching the customer walk can also provide
some insights. An often-overlooked step is
looking at the shoes the customer arrived in.
“The old shoe can tell you a great deal,” said Wert.
”Look at the wear pattern on the bottom, review the
amount the midsole has broken down, how they
lace (or don't), type of shoe, brand, how worn out is
it? Are they overusing their shoes? Is there an insole
already in it? What's the inside look like? Worn in
the heel area? Are they blowing out the side of the
shoe? All this can help give the customer a better
experience and fit.”
Steve Cohen, CEO at Masterfit Enterprises, said
once a customer has settled on a shoe, exploring
insoles should be thought of as an “upgrade” rather
than an “add-on.” Comparing stock insoles versus
the OEM insole side-by- side as well as looking at
the used stock insole of the shoes the customer is
replacing can both help. The stock insoles are often
worn through or the cushioning materials compressed paper-thin under the balls of the foot and
the heel - the exact spots where people often complain of pain or discomfort issues.
Added Cohen, “Often we make the comparison
to a cheap pullout sleeper mattress and a highquality one. You wouldn’t sleep on a cheap mattress
and you only do that eight hours a day. Many people
spend 12 to 18 hours on their feet.”
Putting the upgraded insole in one shoe and
leaving the stock insole in the other and letting
the customer try it on often seals the deal.
“Some subtle leading questions help the customer convince themselves they need this product: Do you feel how well the heel is cradled in
the shoe with the upgraded insole? Do you feel
the increased support and cushioning under your
arch in the shoe with the upgraded insole? Do
you feel how much more cushioned it feels under the balls of your feet and your heels?,” added
Cohen. “If there’s still some resistance, especially
price-based resistance, we like to talk about how
the upgrade insole will also help their new shoes
last longer by improving their gait and evening
out wear patterns. The upgraded insole can help
pay for itself.” ■
APRIL 14, 2014 |
From left to right, John Gaither, SVP and director of product; Hugh Gaither, president; and Joe Gaither, director of marketing
Hugh Gaither
President and Founder
Why did you decide to launch a running sock brand? I worked in my
family’s sock and hosiery manufacturing business for 27 years. Part of our
business was in the sporting goods market. As an athlete, I found that side
of the business really suited my personality and interests. So when that
ended in 2001, I saw an opportunity to make a better performance sock
that incorporated several new technologies, and I quickly found that runners and run specialty retailers were the most receptive to our new products.
What was Feetures! breakthrough moment? Feetures! sustained steady
growth from the beginning, but we made a real breakthrough with the
introduction of the Feetures! Elite product line. Our Elite products utilize patent pending technology, which creates an anatomically constructed
sock using targeted compression in the arch. The Elite product has allowed
us to take fit to the next level. The market has really responded, and it is
clear that consumers are willing to pay a premium price for products that
deliver real value.
As a category leader, how have your priorities changed? A major priority includes promoting not just the Feetures! brand but the whole running
sock category. We know that there are millions of runners lining up each
week to run a 5k or 10k, or even a marathon, and most are not wearing
technical running socks. Those are the people we need to reach. We plan
to work with our retailer partners to raise consumer awareness about the
26 | APRIL 14, 2014
benefits of performance socks. We are introducing a retail support program called, “Step Up Your Sock Game.” It’s designed to help retailers
educate their customers about the benefits of performance socks and in
turn improve the customer experience and increase their sock sales.
When did your Sons join the company and what does that dynamic
bring to the workplace? John has been with me since the beginning of the
company. He was instrumental in helping me to get things off the ground.
Although Joe was responsible for coming up with the name of the brand,
he had to wait until he finished college in 2009 before he officially joined
the team. Fortunately, the three of us are very different not just in age but
in perspective and attitude and this is a good thing. Although we often
disagree, we all respect one another and have a common goal.
You’re one of the top brands in run specialty. What does the future
hold for distribution? We believe there are opportunities to grow outside of the run specialty channel including outdoor, sporting goods, and
internationally. However, our focus is to continue to build our brand in
the run specialty channel by supporting the retailers who have helped
connect us to runners. If we can become the preferred sock among runners, then we will be able to seize opportunities in other markets, too.
Our long-term goal is to become the most recognized performance sock
brand in the world. ■
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