This morning, in the great consumer cathedral that is Minnesota’s Mall of America shopping center, Danish brand ECCO opened its 1,000th retail store. Gear Junkie was there for the ceremony, which included a ribbon cutting and a donation from ECCO of $5,000 to The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Twin Cities before letting an awaiting crowd stream in to look at a sleek store lined with high-end shoes. The company, based in the Danish towns of Bredebro and TÃ¸nder, employs about 20,000 people worldwide and cites itself as the 5th biggest shoe brand in the world. About a quarter of that business, said ECCO USA president Dave Quel, is from the brand’s outdoor and fitness/running lines. We caught up with Quel after the ribbon was cut in the mall to ask about the company’s retail conquest as well as innovations to watch for from the ECCO brand in 2012 and beyond. —Stephen Regenold
Gear Junkie: Congrats on the opening. 1,000 stores is pretty significant.
Dave Quel: Yes, and we’re really just in our infancy in the United States. It’s 1,000 stores worldwide but just 24 stores in the United States.
ECCO, I just read, calls itself the world’s 5th biggest shoe company. I had no idea.
Last year we sold about 17 million shoes. We are also the only major footwear company that owns and manages a vertical supply chain. We internally have leather production facilities and we make the shoes. We sell them at our stores and wholesale, of course, as well. It wasn’t too long ago that the company even owned cows! Now we do outsource for the leather, cow as well as yak.
Your brand is known for its casual and dressy shoes. But the outdoors and fitness or running segments make up what share?
About 25% of shoes sold are in that active and outdoor area. We also have a big focus in golf. We are introducing a new trail runner this spring.
What’s new from the brand?
A big trend is BIOM across the whole line. This technology started in our active shoes, but now it is or will soon be in shoes for walking, golf, and casual wear.
What can we watch for in 2012 and beyond?
In outdoor, we’ll be introducing the BIOM technology in that footwear line. The existing running BIOM line will see a redesign in 2013. I don’t have a lot of details, but it should be a significant refresh of the concept or line.
Thanks much, and congrats on 1,000 stores!
—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.