How retro com­fort brand Earth has mod­ern­ized its image for a new gen­er­a­tion of cus­tomers.

Footwear News - - CASE STUDY - By Bar­bara Sch­nei­der-Levy

A quirky well­ness brand first em­braced by a 1960s gra­nola-crunch­ing crowd is re­shap­ing its image to reach to­day’s com­fort-lov­ing mil­len­ni­als. Waltham, Mass.based Earth has re­branded for the spring ’19 sea­son, de­but­ing an up­dated logo and vis­ual iden­tity, as well as a footbed re­design and a sharper fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity. The fresh look will be­gin rolling out in stores in Jan­uary, along with an up­dated web­site. “We’re con­tin­u­ing with our core older cus­tomers, but our new fo­cus and tagline — ‘Mod­ern Well­ness Fash­ion’ — is tar­get­ing mil­len­ni­als, the largest con­sumer group out there,” said Philippe Mey­nard, CEO of Earth Brands. “We’re also in the process of putting in new stan­dards of qual­ity and man­u­fac­tur­ing. We’re turn­ing it into a true brand with a long life. We’re el­e­vat­ing ev­ery­thing.”

To boost the brand’s com­fort propo­si­tion, all footwear will now in­cor­po­rate the firm’s Pow­er­path footbed, which was in­tro­duced in select Earth styles for fall and fea­tures pres­sure points at the heel to help ab­sorb shock.

The la­bel also has raised the style bar. Ac­cord­ing to An­gelo Romero, head of de­sign, the spring ’19 col­lec­tion fea­tures a stepped-up fo­cus on ath­leisure. “It’s an im­por­tant trend for us,” he said, high­light­ing new styles such as the De­sire Flow sneaker with a knit up­per and the Rose­wood Basil slip-on with a stud trim. In ad­di­tion, said Romero, the brand has a wider of­fer­ing of wedges and heels.

Earth is al­ready rid­ing high on strong rev­enues. Ac­cord­ing to Mey­nard, sales in 2017 in­creased 30 per­cent year over year, and 2018 is ex­pected to close with sim­i­lar gains.

The bulk of the busi­ness is fo­cused on the core Earth col­lec­tion, which will now in­clude trend-driven styles that un­til spring ’18 were sold un­der the Earthies la­bel.

Stocked at Nord­strom and in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers, the Earth line sells for $100 to $150, while the off­shoot Earth Ori­gins col­lec­tion is tar­geted to chain and big-box mer­chants with mod­er­ate price points of $60 to $90. A con­cise men’s col­lec­tion of Earth ca­su­als is in the works for fall ’19.

At Min­nesota-based fam­ily shoe chain Schuler Shoes, Al­li­son Knude, as­so­ciate mer­chan­dise man­ager, said Earth has notched sales gains over the past three years be­cause it ap­peals to cus­tomers from their mid-30s to 60s. “The brand is com­fort-fo­cused but still trendy,” she said, adding that the re­brand­ing should help reach more cus­tomers. “The new logo is clean and sim­ple, and the pack­ag­ing is youth­ful.”

Mark Jube­lirer, pres­i­dent of Rey­ers in Sharon, Pa., agreed that the la­bel has pos­i­tive mo­men­tum and is one of the store’s key col­lec­tions. “They have shoes for a wide age range,” he said. “The new styling is con­tem­po­rary, and the col­ors are mod­ern. It’s about fash­ion-com­fort at mod­er­ate price points.”

Since mil­len­ni­als are a tar­get au­di­ence, Mey­nard said Earth is ap­peal­ing to the de­mo­graphic’s en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ter­ests by man­u­fac­tur­ing its footwear with wa­ter-based ad­he­sives, vegetable-tanned leathers and re­cy­cled ma­te­ri­als. And the com­pany is con­tin­u­ing its part­ner­ship with the global non­profit Trees for the Fu­ture, whereby Earth plants a tree for each pair of shoes pur­chased.

But even as it looks ahead, the com­pany is cel­e­brat­ing its past with a col­lec­tion launch­ing this win­ter: Kalso Earth Icons. The la­bel is a nod to the brand’s founder, Dan­ish yoga in­struc­tor Anne Kalso, who de­vel­oped neg­a­tive­heel shoes to help ease chronic foot and body prob­lems (see side­bar).

“We’re the real deal,” said Mey­nard about re­turn­ing to Earth’s roots with the men’s and women’s cap­sule col­lec­tion. “Right now, the tim­ing is per­fect, as we see the ’70s com­ing back strong.”

“Our new fo­cus and tagline ... is tar­get­ing mil­len­ni­als, the largest con­sumer group out there.” — PHILIPPE MEY­NARD, CEO

Earth’s Drum­lin buck­led an­kle boot

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