New Balance and Arc’teryx are two iconic brands experiencing rapid growth worldwide. As they continue to keep their respective brand visions moving on a massive global scale, though, how do they also remain focused on the invaluable specialty retail channel at the local level?
This is one of the many questions we recently posed to two of their very own seasoned experts during a recent panel discussion:
- Tom Taylor, Head of US Run Specialty Channel Marketing, New Balance
- Kent Hawkins, Channel Marketing Manager – Americas, Arc’teryx
Over the course of the discussion, Tom and Kent talked about the overall importance of specialty retailers, building two-way relationships, and balancing global brand stories with unique in-store experiences.
Why are specialty retailers so important to not only your respective brands but your day-to-day roles?
Kent: Specialty retailers are the ones that give the real specifics on things like, “I want to do my first five-day hike. What are the actual pieces of equipment that I need?” They can bring everything to life for that person because they come from actual experience.
If we really look at the top performers and professionals in our industries, they are going to these specialty shops when they need to buy gear because they also know that they’ll be showcasing our top products and not the mass, more general public product.
Tom: Over the last probably thirty years at New Balance, we have really built our business in the specialty channel. It’s where we started our distribution and where we’ve kind of built up our brand. You get the best experience at these specialty stores, and they really are the product experts.
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What are some of the decisions that go into investing time, energy, and money into specialty or independent versus e-commerce or big-box?
Kent: The big thing for us is that we look for a partner that wants to invest with us, as well. Instead of just paying for ads or doing something to drive business, we also really want to work with our retailers to be like, “What is working for you guys? We’re happy to invest in it, but invest in us with it.”
We love when they come to the table to work together with us, so we can figure out a solution for what they may need. We’re always happy to support them.
Tom: I totally agree. It’s all about creating a partnership. For us to really ensure that we’re all operating as efficiently as possible, we look for partnerships where our retailers will share sell-through data. We can help them carry less inventory, fill faster, and help them be more profitable.
As people who sit at mega multi-billion dollar brands, how do you start and build those relationships where retailers feel comfortable sharing their coveted data?
Tom: It’s all about the sales rep who is building the trust and the partnership. By no means do retailers share all data. Some don’t share any data. Some are like, “This is my data. I’m not sharing it.” It comes down to what the brand can really do and the trust that you work to develop.
Kent: In my opinion, you either innovate or you sink. The savvy retailers that are sharing their sell-through data with us are the ones that are succeeding. We’re able to say, “Okay, you’re selling a lot of product A, but not a lot of product B. Let’s swap that out. Let’s get you more product A versus product B.” Those innovative ones are the ones that will make the difference.
How do you work to balance the global brand story and vision with the specific uniqueness of your local independent retailers?
Kent: We always want to show the pinnacle experience of the products through our mainstream channels, but we also understand that you have to have a local representation of that. The way we do that locally is through events.
We’ll partner with a rep to find out what local experiences we should be highlighting, whether that’s in the shop or somewhere outdoors, where you can still experience our product. It’s balancing that question of “How do we want the brand to be viewed as an aspirational type of product while relating it to that local level?” It’s definitely not an easy task for any brand.
Tom: It’s definitely tough. The New Balance marketing team has a global strategy team that sets the stage and says, “This is New Balance in the future, and this is how we see ourselves. We want to portray this message.”
Then, there are regions across the world that will say, “That story makes sense. I’m going to use that story,” or, “That doesn’t make any sense. I’m not using that story,” or somewhere in-between.
As we go through the year, and I see what products are launching and what we’re talking about in the specialty run channel specifically, I’ll edit a campaign or make it regionally relevant. We continue to refine and figure out what’s going to resonate in the channel.
What are you doing to make sure your brands keep moving on a global level while also making sure that your local retailers don’t fall by the wayside?
Kent: I think that retail is going to get divided into two channels. One of them is going to be those big-box players that have a variety of product. The other is going to be these great showroom locations where you can go in and get a unique brand experience while also getting an experience specific to the industry. What we’re doing is trying to work with our retailers to help them follow one of those directions.
If they play with the larger big-box scale, it’s like, “Let’s get that sell-through data for them, so that we can help accelerate their business.” If they’re a smaller independent shop, we want to elevate the experience in those locations so that the ski hill guides or whoever it is, will come to that location to get the best product and experience.
Tom: I totally agree. It’s all about helping them to elevate the experience. I think the whole consumer experience in the specialty channel is changing, and it comes down to providing something unique, the partnership between brand and retailer, and really working to bring value to these businesses.
This great panel discussion comes from our third annual Aligned Conference (September 2016, Boston). It’s the only conference that brings together digital trade and retail marketers across all industries to share marketing strategies that empower their local retailers.
How Do They Balance Going Global and Staying Local? Promoboxx Helps Them Get There.
Find out why Kent Hawkins, Channel Marketing Manager – Americas at Arc’teryx, made the switch from a digital asset management portal to Promoboxx in order to better tell their brand story through local retailers.
Hear why Tom Taylor, Head of US Run Specialty Channel Marketing at New Balance, partners with Promoboxx to promote national brand marketing campaigns through their local retailers.