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Cameron Black from Saucony on blending lifestyle and performance in sportswear

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Translated by

Roberta HERRERA

Published



Jun 25, 2024

The American sports footwear brand Saucony once again set up shop in Paris for the Men’s Fashion Week, which ended June 23 in the French capital. In addition to a showroom for its retailers on Rue du Temple in Paris’ 3rd arrondissement, Saucony’s latest offerings are also being showcased at the trendy coffee shop Fauna in the 11th arrondissement, and Distance, a popular running store in the 3rd arrondissement, both adorned with Saucony’s branding. This provides an opportunity for Cameron Black, vice president for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, to discuss Saucony’s positioning at a time when the boundaries between lifestyle and performance are increasingly porous. It also opens the door to consider what might lead Wolverine Worldwide’s brand to eventually open its own stores on the continent.

Cameron Black – Saucony

FashionNetwork.com: What does Saucony gain from its presence at Paris Fashion Week?

Cameron Black: I believe it’s an excellent opportunity for us to connect with the lifestyle community, and beyond. There’s a significant crossover now between the realms of performance and lifestyle, which are merging. This is the direction we’re heading, blending the world of running with lifestyle. Our presence in Paris allows us to launch the new Hurricane 24 this week. Previously a performance model designed for running, we’ve repositioned it as a lifestyle running shoe. It features maximum cushioning, perfect for long runs, but it’s also designed for everyday wear.

FNW: So, your research into performance models benefits your lifestyle offerings, and vice versa, the latter adds a fashion element to performance products?

CB: Consumers today are looking for running shoes they can also wear in their daily lives. When we innovate, we do so from a performance perspective for runners, but not just for elite athletes like marathoners. We also innovate for casual runners. Some runners now want to look stylish while they run, which sometimes leads them to dress according to their shoes. Saucony, with its heritage in lifestyle and product innovation, is ideally positioned to combine these two worlds, given the blurred lines between lifestyle and performance.

FNW: How do sales break down today between performance products and lifestyle offerings?

CB: It’s about 60% performance products and 40% lifestyle. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish, as some technical products are now used more frequently in daily life. In the past, a running shoe was made, sold, and used strictly for running. Today, it might be used for a 10k run but then worn on the street to complement your style. This is something Saucony can truly capitalize on to stand out to appearance-conscious consumers. We can target this specific group and offer a cooler approach to running, carving out a niche in this field.

The Parisian coffee shop Fauna (located on 12 rue Oberkampf, Paris XIe) promoting Saucony – Saucony

FNW: Is Saucony’s customer base more male or female today?

CB: The male-to-female customer ratio varies by market. The percentage of male customers is higher in Germany, whereas sales are more balanced in the UK and Nordic countries. Some markets tend to be predominantly female. It’s important for us to target and attract both genders, develop products to achieve this, and have marketing that appeals to both. We don’t focus strictly on achieving a 50/50 ratio. We aim to stay in tune with the industry.

FNW: Saucony has no branded stores in EMEA. Are you considering this? Why not in Paris, where you have established a presence during Fashion Weeks?

CB: We are considering opening branded stores in the region in the future. I can’t say when exactly, but a store can significantly raise a brand’s profile. It allows the brand to engage deeply with local communities. Currently, we’re focusing on London, Paris, and Milan, which we believe will have the most significant impact across Europe.

Having a branded store can create a strong market presence, strengthening brand awareness. This can impact wholesale sales in the region, benefit local retailers, and boost the brand’s e-commerce sales.

FNW: What percentage of sales is currently made online?

CB: It’s probably below the industry standard. Historically, we’ve focused heavily on our wholesale distribution. Now, we see an opportunity to use the e-commerce platform to engage consumers better and elevate their experience with the brand. For many consumers, it’s the first place they discover the brand. We’re investing more online, learning from this direct-to-consumer channel, which benefits the entire business.

Saucony’s Hurricane 24 running shoe model – Saucony

FNW: Where are Saucony products manufactured today?

CB: We produce quite extensively in Vietnam, but also significantly in China and Bangladesh. It depends on each factory’s capabilities and the products being made. As a brand and company, we’re continually striving to incorporate more responsible sourcing and sustainability into our footwear.

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