RBR, # 1. You recently announced that you had reached the number two position in run specialty sales, describe that feeling:
Richie Woodworth: Saucony has for many seasons, been a well-positioned third brand. For us, knowing where we started from always is great. But, it was not enough. Saucony is really competitive, and the people in Saucony are competitive. We have a ton of respect for the people we compete with, in the running space. But, we thought we are better. We will put our vision of the running consumer and product first and how it manifests is critically important. We are getting better for the runner. We have wedged ourselves in between the two top brands who have been there, and we are proud of it. So that has happened in 2013. It happened before we thought it would. For Saucony, we are keeping runner focused, runner centric.
RBR, # 2. What running product are you most satisfied with? ,
Richie Woodworth: I cannot single out one product. The fact is that we have a very thoughtful product philosophy: we put a stake in the ground of what is important to therunner and that we believe in, and we implement that simple things. The simple things, though, are not so simple. We believe light is right, we have been able to franchise model that have been around 10-12 years, and make them two ounces lighter. Geometry matters, and how geometry sets the body up and individual gate, and gate cycle, that was important there. We were the first there, with 8mm drop, now we also 4mm and 0 mm, but 8mm is the sweet spot, and we think that set the body up better. We think of dynamic fit, not just putting it on, but we think a lot about Sunday runs, when you are 8-9 miles in, fit has to be as good as when you put on the store. We have great product and we stand behind it. Thoughtful leadership has helped to accelerate our innovation.
RBR, # 3. Tell us about Saucony’s relationship with run specialty?
Richie Woodworth: We believe in run specialty, kind of to the death. The core of our business is run specialty. We understand them, and them being us. We understand their role in the education of runners, and how important they are in many ways in the running community. The community aspect took form and shape, really around run specialty. We not only encourage it, we hopefully enrich it. That can be felt in specialty partners stores. To me, that is the crux of run and running specialty: we keep them special, and provide their eduction, and we provide that separation for saucony from rest of pack.
RBR, # 4: How do you do that dance?
Richie Woodworth: We do a number of different things. A number of good, channel segmentations, and packages,that we do, just for run specialty. We kind of run a great sort of map policy that provides product integrity, around the channels. That system keeps it a level playing field, and provides for bettter research in product and development to keep margins higher.
RBR, # 5. One and a half years ago, Wolverine announced that they were purchasing Saucony, how did that change the brand? Doe sthe consumer see any difference?
Richie Woodworth: The announcement was two years ago, but Wolverine took us over a year ago in October. Actually, the consumer does not see much difference. The great level of support from Wolverine has given Saucony in things like sourcing, and the operating space, in the back room size of our business has allowed us to focus more on product and consumer engagement.
RBR, # 6. Tell us about Saucony’s investment in grass roots?
Richie Woodworth: I think that this makes Saucony special. It is really hard to make money in track and field and cross country shoes. Watching all of the beans, the great part of Saucony is that there are a lot of things that muake us specialy, and we can look behind the spirit, the sould and the heartbeat, and what running means. And what it begins with track and cross country. It is our sport, and we support our sport. In that, it is meaningful, and there are business elements that make it prudent. That kid who develops an affinity to our brand. That is an important engagement into a loyal Saucony customer and consumer.
RBR, # 7. Why did Saucony do so well in New York City marathon expo?
Richie Woodworth: New York is a bit of a revelation in certain ways. We work all so hard, keep our heads down. We keep bulldozing, through goals and objectives in all of these areas. We are walking and going, and attending industry events, and listening to the chatter on web, television and wherever, and I kind of had a moment, where I stopped and paused. Saucony is unbelievably market right, from a product standpoint, globally, we are leading the conversation, in innovation and product, and it wasn’t just North American people. The other thing was, we were right on the pulse of what the running community represents and we have had a very strange year, with NYC being postponed and the rotten and ugly tragedy that made Bosotn super ugly, in between, which culminated in all of these great events. What runners are and what runners can bring, whether in London, in Boston Strong. Runners running back on Sunday in the most storm ravaged areas in NYC in 2012. I think, our message, Find Your Strong, our mission statement, empowering the human spirit through running, is both remarkable and timely. Combine what we are saying and how we represent ourselves, with great product innovation, has provided our sport to be set up well for 2014.
RBR, # 8. How is social media playing a part in Saucony?
Richie Woodworth: Social media for us is to engage in the creation of a two-way dialogue. I can not figure out how to monetize it objectively. To really have that piece around engagement, social status and constiuents, and how runners, looked at our social results, we measure that independently. We measure fan vitality, that is like how people are talking about you, how rich the conversations are, and key words that they pull. If you sort of took all of that chatter, and amongst those running and athletic brands, number one in that level of chatter and engagement, ultimately between mobile apps, social media that is the future. We can be there first, in a quality kind of way, by bringing the right information. Sharon Barbano, Saucony VP of Communications, writes and blogs and tweets and is providing a service that is an educational component.
At the running event, Saucony doing a social media at the breakfast.
RBR, # 9. Name a few of the things that Saucony does for the community.
Richie Woodworth: We like to be good corporate citizens, one thing we highlighted we have taken on is cause related. We have done it a long time, and that is childhood obesity. We created a board, did it in conjunction with Runners World at the beginning. We are using running as empowering the human spirit, we see kids who are impoverished and not ready to fight their way out of it. We give well over a million dollars for www.Runforgood.com to various programs that need the support and help that get us into running. Internally here, we actually do outreach and areas near Boston, our people get to participate and kind of things that make Run For Good.
RBR, # 10: Your philosophy on sports marketing?
Richie Woodworth: Sports marketing is a major program, and we spend a long list of things against it. It is the brand off of the tree, one brand is grass roots that we employ with our own and on the other side of sports marketing, we activate around major expos and around the world. Those three things, kind of look at, but athletes in general, that has changed. The days of athletes holding up a shoe, are gone. We see athletes who are great, and then, that does not make a sale for a company or a product.
It has to be deeper than that, the brand, the athlete and the community, we do that in a really genuine way, to help us research and in development. They get a benefit, we provide info for them that we hopefully inspires.
The other piece, our athletes are literally engaging. They have good character, not cranky, when retail visits are planned, they love them. They like it when we get them involved in run for good and help kids get involved in a healthy lifestyle. Dee Dee Trotter is a good example. So you kind of put all of that together, and that elevates the athlete platform.
RBR, # 11. Why should running retailers put Saucony on the wall?
Richie Woodworth: What I would say, if they were a serious running specialty is this: why would you not have the best runnings shoes and apparel on the planet on your wall?
Special thanks to Sharon Barbano and Richie Woodworth for their time. For more on Saucony, please go to www.saucony.com.