Strategic Business Manager Chris Davis on the exciting and not-so-retro ways New Balance plans to sell you sneakers this year, next year, and beyond
There's a scene in the 2011 Ryan Gosling/Steve Carrell bromance comedy Crazy, Stupid, Love where Ryan's character throws Steve's New Balance sneakers over the balcony at a mall in disgust. He sarcastically asks if Carrell's character is wearing them because he is actually Steve Jobs. The joke works, because that's basically the reputation New Balance has had with most American men. But just four years later, that's all different, thanks to collaborations with cool-guy brands like Concepts, Wings & Horns, and a partnership with J.Crew. Mobilizing older guys to buy into the cushy comfort of New Balance is one thing, but convincing their kids to do it is an entirely different battle. Here, we spoke to strategic business manager Chris Davis about how they're prepared to win said battle.
New Balance CT300
The Deconstructed 696 sneaker [shown above] has been a big success, selling out in a lot of stores. How did that style come about and how do you guys plan on building on that success?
They came from of our global design team in Tokyo design studio, where we also have a lifestyle innovation center. There we have designers who are really focused on new ideas for the lifestyle aspect of our brand. The 696 is actually our second or third biggest style in Asia, so we really wanted to do something to freshen it up while emphasizing the premium element that the brand stands for. So really they just tried to make it the most breathable, comfortable, premium shoe in the marketplace. But it's also fashionable, and so we will have a lot of new deconstructed models coming out in the near future.
Do you guys
have any collaborations coming out in the next few months?
We actually have a deconstructed 1500 style coming out with Size? in the UK. We also have new collaborations with Concepts, Norse Projects, and Wings & Horns that will launch later this year. And in the court section of our business we have a lot of collaborations with J.Crew coming out.
Why do you think your relationship with J.Crew has worked so well? Do you feel you've helped them enter the sneaker retailing space?
Since you guys started these new initiatives for the New Balance brand, what has been the most successful sneaker you've introduced?
From a 'Made in U.S.A.' perspective I would say the 998 has been a monster globally. That shoe has been amazing for us, simply when it comes to changing the perception of New Balance. And the same goes for the CT300 court shoe, which we've collaborated on with a number of Japanese retailers like United Arrows. It's taken off globally, and is probably the first non-running sneaker that we've gotten significant traction on as a brand.
How do you guys make manufacturing in the U.S. possible, without the shoes being super expensive?
It's part of the values of New Balance to create shoes in the United States, so it simply will always be a part of who we are, no matter what the price is. And we firmly believe that shoes made in the U.S. are higher quality. The materials are better, we have a better workforce, and that overall it's a much better product. We know consumers will pay more for a better product, and we also know the American-made stamp carries value, not just in the U.S. but all over the world. We are known for quality products around the world because of our 'Made in U.S.A.' products.