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Keen they from the

winter product… we have something for it. Our kids’ business is

flying right now, I call it the unofficial playground shoe of the world.

I think our product is really well suited to the UK market, but I think what we have to do is get some brand awareness, more people need to hear about us. Our positioning is around this thing called HybridLife, which is a bit esoteric. It’s really just telling people to create, play and care; like, create something interesting, play a little more, and care about the people and places around you. That’s what we stand for. When people start to hear that message, and see and experience the product that backs it up, I think we can look forward to success in the UK for a long time to come. We’re in it for the long haul; we’re with the right customer base right now, I feel good about that, and our service levels are getting stronger; we’re paying a lot of attention to the UK because it’s a great market.

We don’t want to be pigeonholed as just a sandal brand, we’re about outdoor specialty right now – we don’t want to only play in March through August, then go away for six months. Our goal is to increase awareness of KEEN, bring HybridLife to life, and make every season KEEN season. And it’s starting to work.

SGB: Keen sandals do look like they could be a UK-designed and –made product… JC: As the guy who runs the company, my whole vision is that we’re not just this American company coming in to a foreign market. People in the UK can see our shoes and think, maybe these are a British

brand, are

you see you can say oh, that’s Keen. If you look at apparel,

and you squint, most of it looks the same. Our DNA resonates in every product we make.

SGB: You’ve diversified from shoes quite a lot with backpacks and more… JC: Our socks are brilliant, we really engineer them in a way no-one ever has, we have a left- right story, they’re asymmetric… As a young company, we have so many stories to tell, with bags, socks, sandals, winter product, trail running… We have 60-year-old machines we have refurbished, and we’re going to build a factory in the Dominican Republic, which we are going to run using solar power, and make a whole new collection from. We just have way too much going on!

UK – same in Germany or Japan. People might think it’s a homegrown story. I’m a Canadian, and I say wherever you want KEEN to be from, that’s where it’s from.

SGB: That’s great because you’re not forcing an ethos or a lifestyle suggestion on to the customer. JC: Our whole Create-Play-Care thing is for everybody. Who doesn’t want to have a little more fun in this crazy world? It’s getting a little too serious.

We’re not a high performance brand, we’re performance with a small ‘p’ – we’re comfortable, durable, sustainable, and the cool thing for us is that we have a look, that is part of our DNA. Everything of ours

SGB: Do you worry that this might be a distraction from your core business? JC: Our core business is so strong right now, our sandal business. We’re getting more known for our hiking product, casual product, kids… My term for it is that we are aggressively patient. We’re just trying to do the right things at the right time.

Our consumer will write us an email saying, I love your sandals, can you make me a chef shoe? I need a steel toe shoe, can you make one? A trail running shoe? Consumers inundate us with ideas and we say, why wouldn’t we go there? For example, there’s the Newport shoe that all the kids wear, but one little girl, Gabby Lee, travels from Portland to Florida to see her grandparents every year. Well, Gabby asked us if we could make a sandal without the toe protection because it got too hot for her feet. So we made one with no toe on the front, and it was a child that had the design idea.

Gabby Lee AUGUST 2010 SGB OUTDOOR 21

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