The past few seasons have been rather quiet at the US skate and sneaker brand Supra Footwear. But this is about to change thanks to new manpower, revised collections and new collaborations. In April 2017 the company, which belongs to K-Swiss Global Brands, welcomed experienced product designer Kara Duffy onboard. Steve Harden assumed the role of brand president and in November Sascha Weil was announced as new brand director EMEA. Together with the whole team they want to reposition Supra in Europe and the States. Here, Weil and Duffy tell us what they are planning to do and what steps they have already taken.
In recent years it has been very quiet around Supra. Especially in Europe, the brand was no longer visible. How relevant is the brand at present? How many stores does the brand currently serve in Europe? And how is the brand positioned in the remaining markets?
Sacha Weil: At the moment, we have around 250 retail partners with 400 doors in Europe. Without a doubt, it’s a challenging time right now. You are correct, it has been too quiet the past seasons and the product wasn’t exciting enough. Thus, performance at this moment isn’t at the level yet we want it to be, but changes in product design, marketing and organization have been set in motion already but won’t be visible just yet. Take our collections for instance. Our fall ’18 footwear and apparel range clearly shows a fresh, daring, up-trend design the market used to see from Supra in its heyday. Back then we were renowned for our different designs, recognized by many influencers that were running away with our shoes. We were the mavericks in the footwear business that carved our own path and consumers pulled the brand. That is where we want to be at again, and with product in the lead, marketing, sales and our partners will contribute their share. But it won’t be until spring ’19 until all pieces fall into place and Supra will be back 100%. What we experience now are retailers that are still so much in love with our brand that they believe in us. They want us to succeed and that motivates us even more to come back even stronger. Our loyal retailers will be rewarded for their patience and we are helping where we can. It feels like a true partnership now and we are all anticipating the fall ’18 sell-through seasons and beyond.
How the will the European comeback be achieved? In which stores do you want to place Supra? Which marketing strategy do you follow?
SW: We originated from skate, and that is where we will always be. Skate stores around the world are our primary target and a substantial portion of our marketing budget is invested in team, events and grassroots skateboarding. At the same time, the trend-right and trend-forward sneaker store is where Supra should be found. With a determined vision of not blending in, never to compromise and always go for our own beliefs, our product is different by nature. We want to stick out and the retailer is longing for some freshness in store. Of course we are not shy from making money, but we go back to where we are from–the streets of Los Angeles–and translate that into our products, instead of following the mass trends. We are fortunate to come from a place where many trends are ignited and therefore we can be at the forefront of it. Our marketing teams work hard every day to convey that message in mainly online brand activation and through influencers. Supra targets the younger generation, 14- to 24-year-olds, and they are the key opinion leaders for many things. We know how to find them and how to truly cherish our brand, as at their age, they create their own identity and value brands who actually have their own identity. We started reigniting that target group just a few months ago, and it’s paying off for us already. We will continue to activate and support sales and the brand by doing so.
In the USA, Kara Duffy works as a product manager on the designs. Which collection, price ranges etc. are you going to start with?
SW: Kara is a tremendous asset to the brand. She supervises all collections, from footwear to apparel, from men to women and kids. As said, her first signature will be in the fall ’18 collection, but the really, really good stuff will be presented for spring ’19. Not only is the footwear collection out of this world, but also a cut & sew apparel collection looks mind-blowing. The whole package (footwear & apparel) is a fantastic unity and has a very clear Supra DNA all over it. Think of trend-forward, LA-styled streetwear, with a sniff of skate culture and a flavor of Southern California all over it and you will have the right picture. The footwear price range will be €59 to €149 for adults, apparel starts from just under €30 for a trendy tee to around €120 for a jacket. We want to be affordable yet premium in quality and design.
What trade fairs will Supra attend?
SW: In Europe, we looked at Seek, Bright, Pitti and/or Jacket Required, but the organizational changes weren’t in place yet so we missed the good locations at those trade shows and decided to wait for spring ’19. In the US, we’re at Agenda with a full crew and collection, as many of our clients in the US still order directly at that show.
How could Supra benefit from the current skateboarding trend?
SW: All our roots are in skateboarding and therefore, Supra has credibility as a true skateboard brand. Without a doubt, big brands like Adidas, Nike and Vans grew a lot in skateboarding the last years as they did many things right, but there is still a relevant and good space for us in that segment. We are realistic enough to know our place, and that surely the big two players are out of our league–for now. We concentrate on doing things right, invest in the right sports (skateboarding), the right place (where our target group shops and spends time) and the right product (street/skate trend relevant). So overall, Supra is benefiting from the current skateboarding trend, and offers relevant product for when you’re not performing in the skate park or in the streets.
Kara, what are the biggest differences in the sneaker markets of Europe, the USA and Asia?
Kara Duffy: I think one of the biggest misconceptions is the degree to which sneaker markets are different around the world. Each region has a need for utilitarian, performance and fashion footwear. Each region has those consumers. For example, if you want to find leaders in streetwear sneakers look in Berlin, Tokyo, New York, Shanghai, London. In those same cities you can find the other groups, too. Yes, there are small differences in color or material preferences. Yes, where trends start varies. But the sneaker market globally is organized very much like other cultural groups, and they’re sorted by beliefs and what motivates them, but they’re collected globally. They’re (people of the same sneaker group) reading the same blogs, following the same or similar people on Instagram, and watching the same shows on Netflix.
The hard part to reach a mass global audience isn’t necessarily in how the product is made, but in how we’re going to speak to those consumers through marketing. What type or size of a marketing campaign will speak to not just the original target group, but be able to be heard across cultural groups and the different tiers of trend adoption groups? We have the same issue in product marketing as our geo-political organizations are having today–how do you get your message to be heard by people with different beliefs and motivating factors when so much of the global communication today is insular?