In 2009, there were whispers, and by 2012, it was a movement. The HOKA ONE ONE brand showed that, if one takes the time to build a fine shoe, and finds a key constituency, as well as supporting core influencers and specialty retailers, the world is your oyster.
HOKA ONE ONE continues to grow, in a time when few brands are seeing growth. Wendy Yang is President of HOKA ONE ONE and Performance Lifestyle Brands at Deckers. Wendy is a long time footwear business executive, and long time Deckers Corporation executive, who managed the Teva brand for several years. We asked Wendy seven questions, as we have asked ten key players in the industry. This is our second interview in the series, and we thank Wendy for her time and comments.
Q&A with RunBlogRun
Wendy Yang, President, Performance Lifestyle Brands at Deckers
RunBlogRun, #1: The running performance business is in a quandary right now, most experts believe that only HOKA and NB are showing growth at this time, why is your brand doing so well?
Wendy Yang: More people than ever are running right now, so there is tremendous opportunity for growth. But there are also a lot of running shoe brands, so brands need to innovate to stand out from the crowd. HOKA ONE ONE caught on in the first place, and continues to grow at an unmatched pace, because our product seeks to offer unique solutions to issues runners can face, whether that issue is how to run downhill faster or how to cut fractions of seconds off each lap on the track. What’s more, our products offer maximal cushion with minimal weight, and more and more customers, from beginners to veteran runners, are finding them enjoyable to run in.
RunBlogRun, #2: Your running and trail product has been received well by women runners, key in future growth, why?
Wendy Yang: Women are a huge priority for HOKA, especially since they comprise over half the running shoe market. We want our product, and the experience of running in it, to resonate with them in unique and meaningful ways; through our storytelling and our athletes, we are trying to convey that we are a brand for every type of runner – that women of all experiences and stripes can run in our shoes, and even enjoy it.
RunBlogRun, #3: While run specialty is in a maelstrom, HOKA ONE ONE continues to open run specialty stores, what are you doing right that others are doing wrong?
Wendy Yang: Though run specialty makes up a proportionately small percentage of the market and overall sales, they play a huge role in setting trends that will be followed throughout the sport, and tend to have their fingers on the pulse of which products are better and will, in turn, sell better. Moreover, HOKA started small, and relied on partnerships with smaller run specialty stores to first break through into the “serious” running scene. For these reasons, maintaining these relationships is an extremely important part of our growth and our retaining our reputation as a premium running shoe brand. We partner with specialty retailers in unique ways, going beyond discounts or exclusives; a great example would be our partnership with Fleet Feet Sports to create a second season of our “Top Trails” video series and installments in our “Humans of HOKA” campaign that center around various Fleet Feet locations and staff from those stores.
RunBlogRun, #4: HOKA ONE ONE had strong success at Western States, would you care to comment?
Wendy Yang: We were thrilled to see HOKA was the most popular brand among all finishers, and are glad so many runners trust our shoes to carry them over 100 grueling miles. And of course, we saw some great success with our athletes, such as Magda Boulet placing second and Chris Denucci placing fifth in one of ultrarunning’s most competitive events. This further solidifies that HOKA is a serious brand, here to stay, with big goals for the future.
RunBlogRun, #5: HOKA ONE ONE is juggling direct sales and running store sales, how difficult is that?
Wendy Yang: HOKA has the tightest distribution of any Performance Running brand. Our DTC business provides the consumer with full and complete access to a fast-growing brand. We believe our DTC enhances our tight distribution awareness and gives the consumer a choice to buy local at run Specialty or buy online. We prioritize our Run Specialty partners because HOKA is an experience-driven brand and Run Specialty does it the best, provides the best education and experience for HOKA.
Wendy Yang: Deckers provides all five brands a robust eco-system of resources to utilize. From sourcing, product development, innovation, consumer insights, and finance. This structure allows HOKA to prioritize and focus on strategic selling, building innovative product and marketing that truly connects with our consumers in authentic and unique ways.
RunBlogRun, #7: You are in a room of retailers and key consumers, why should they consider HOKA ONE ONE?
Wendy Yang: Our shoes don’t just look different – they feel different, perform differently, and offer a truly unique experience. We have developed a mature line of shoes since 2009, many of which look less distinct than our early products, but all of which retain the unique ride characteristics and weight-to-cushion ratio that have become our calling card; and everything, from our most cushioned trail running shoes to our track spikes, to our recovery slides, all HOKA products are designed to offer a unique solution to something runners deal with.