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Fast-Growing Hoka One One Looks To Go Beyond Niche

2015 looks to be a big year for the hot shoe brand.

Hoka One One doesn’t want to be a niche brand—and it’s ready to prove it.

The Richmond, Calif.- based brand, has been growing at an aggressive pace, but according to president Jim Van Dine, 2015 will be a transformative year.

“We continue to grow at a very rapid pace, and that hasn’t abated at all,” he said.

The brand, a fully owned division of Deckers since 2013, is approaching 700 retail store accounts in the U.S., up from 90 two years ago, and Van Dine expects that by this month Hoka shoes will be sold in 1,200 total doors. The internal team now numbers 30, up from two, and Hoka employs 14 field service reps and will have 18 by early this year.

In 2014, Van Dine said, the company is anticipating near-400 percent year-over-year growth, moderating 2015 on a larger business.

“We know we can’t sustain that for long,” he said. “But we’ll probably grow at 80 to 100 percent.”

According to Greg Weich, manager at Boulder, Colorado-based retailer Flatirons Running, Hoka has taken significant share at the store in both road and their historically strong trail styles.

“The growth here is incredible—I’d say they’re in our top three brands,” he said.

The brand has started making inroads with the average consumer and high school students as well, he said: “I think they’re starting to crack that market. They’re super relevant in all the different areas, and not a niche brand — all their styles are legitimate for a wide variety of runners.”

A big part of the expansion plan will take the brand beyond the specialty world with a dedicated product line for sporting goods and department stores, Van Dine said.

“We can’t allow or don’t want to allow oversize product to 
be introduced to any segment of the running market by another brand,” he said.

Van Dine said the line will have similar product at comparable price points but with different names and a slightly different aesthetic
 from the current, specialty store-oriented line.

“We’re not dumbing down the product,” he said. “It will represent all the same technology and innovation we present in our existing line.”

Van Dine said Hoka would be shipping product to retailers including Nordstrom, Sports Authority and some other chains for spring. “We’re rolling out slowly in test mode—they’re testing us and we’re testing them,” he said.
 “The run specialty channel will still be the heart and soul of our industry, and it’s where the real alpha consumer goes,” he added. “But not all runners shop in run specialty, and we need to go into those other trade channels.”

Mark Rouse, owner 
of Arlington Heights, Ill.-based Runners High ’n Tri, said that sales of Hoka have been robust in part thanks to great service from the brand’s tech and sales reps, but have leveled off as the product has become more widely distributed.

“My hope is that [the brand] doesn’t get too big too fast and flood the market,” he said. “But it’s the way business is, and we understand that. So far, it’s been good—we’re hoping it continues to grow.”

Another part of the brand’s plan to “take the mainstream” involves continually evolving the product.

Although the brand 
is known for its super-cushioned shoes—the original styles Hoka classifies as “ultra-sized”and the slightly more streamlined “oversized”—Van Dine said that shoes with “conventional dimensions” could be ready as soon as fall 
2015 or by spring 2016 for certain.

Building off of the brand’s signing of athletes like Leo Manzano and Nicole Schappert and growing activity in the track world, that offering is slated to include track spikes and flats.

“Our belief is that in spite of all the benefits that we see from over- sized shoes, there’s no one shoe that works for everybody,” he said. “We want to try to address the needs of as high a percentage of the running population as there is.”

Also on tap: fall 2015 launches of what the brand is calling its Mountain category, with oversized product for hiking and mountain running.

Aimed at specialty outdoors—the brand is already sold at REI and several independents in the space, he said — the Mountain category could “pretty dramatically” expand Hoka’s penetration in the outdoor space, Van Dine said.

And going forward, he said, he doesn’t want to limit where Hoka could evolve to.

“Part of my job is to not put any artificial ceilings on us,” he said.

With co-founder Jean-Luc Diard working on advanced concepts, Van Dine said, “We want to continue in the spirit of the original founders.”

“We try to come from a blank slate, and how that will manifest itself going forward, I don’t know. We’re very committed to serving our customers. But I would say there’s nothing we’ve ruled out [in the future],” he said. “We’re a running brand, and we’re staffed with runners, but we’re not closing ourselves off to anything.”

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