Volcom’s Ryan Immegart On Expanding Into Footwear

Earlier this month, Volcom announced that it would be taking a huge step forward by expanding its product offering to now include footwear.  Although the brand has been a player in the sandal category for the past five years, this new offering will see Volcom branching out to include boots and lifestyle shoes.  The collection, which has been in development for close to two years, certainly marks a new era in products  for the twenty-two year-old brand and comes after its acquisition by major fashion brand owner PPR back in 2011.

“We are approaching this category for the long term with a humble state of mind on a global level,” says Volcom's Senior Vice President of Marketing Ryan Immegart. “Right out of the gates we made the necessary investments up front to properly support the category around the world. We hired highly qualified and passionate footwear specialists across the board, set up our own sourcing team overseas, and allocated proper budgets to support it all. It's been a really fun process.”

We checked in with Immegart to learn more about the stoke surrounding Volcom footwear, how the brand is positioning itself in the market with this category, its footwear distribution strategy, and more.

Ryan Immegart, Volcom VP of Marketing

Ryan Immegart, Volcom Senior VP of Marketing

Why did Volcom decide to launch into the footwear market at this time?

Multiple reasons really. Most significantly was the fact that after being acquired by PPR we had the resources to do it properly. Tapping into the PPR family opened up new opportunities, footwear being one of them. In addition, after making sandals for 5+ years and seeing success in this category, we felt it made sense to expand to a year around strategy.

How has parent company PPR played a role in the launch and growth of this new collection?

They have been very helpful, from motivation to manufacturing it's been awesome to tap into their expertise. They really understand the importance of a launch like this and how brand integrity needs to be a priority. They have enabled us to approach this in a way that would have been difficult on our own and have given us the opportunity to truly tap into our imagination.

How big is the collection and will it continue to grow?

The Fall line is tight and consists of 10 styles for men and 9 styles for women. We wanted to keep the collection focused out of the gates and then build on it. It's definitely going to grow and we are about to start showing our Holiday 13 collection, which really blew my mind. It's inspiring to see the progression from season to season. I just reviewed Spring 14 and honestly it just keeps getting better and better.

What sets Volcom footwear apart from other collections?

Ultimately this comes down to the brand. The Volcom DNA is strong and something that we pride ourselves on no matter if we are making board shorts, outerwear, swim, denim, or footwear. Our Innovative approach to design and branding has helped set us apart and we are following those same principles with footwear. Additionally our deep roots in board sports, music and art have provided the perfect platform to flex our heritage within this category.

How would you describe this collection from a design/inspiration stand point?

Simply put I think this collection represents the brand. Subtle attention to detail make the product unmistakably Volcom and we stayed clear of just popping a big logo on our take of someone else's shoe. We took pride every step of the way and incorporated things like one black and one white outsole on key styles along with quality materials like ballistic nylons and full grain leathers. Additionally we built off the success of our "Recliner Sandal" by developing an exclusive "Recliner Comfort Foam (RCF)" insole in all the men's styles. I think both the men's and women's products speak for themselves so I urge people to check them out in person before drawing a conclusion.

What opportunities do you see that exist within this market?

I think we all could agree that the industry is challenged right now, but challenges also foster new opportunities. With that said, the timing for this launch feels good. From my perspective I think the market is ready for a brand like ours, with deep roots in action sports, to invest in new and exciting products. For the most part it seems like the big players are dominating so our intention is to offer a high-quality, authentic alternative that compliments our other products and completes the brand story.

Has the new collection helped open up new retail doors for the brand – if so, what type, which ones?

We are focusing on our current distribution first and foremost. In some cases this category has helped us build off our sandal business and in other cases it's opened up new opportunities with existing partners.

How has it initially been received by retailers?

The majority has been positive. Of course there will be skepticism since it's new but that is to be expected. In general, it's been encouraging and we really took all the input to heart. During our initial showing back in November we actually made changes on the fly based on retailers input.

What do you see for the next six to twelve months for the collection?

The next 6 months will be all about the launch and driving demand for the retailers that bought into the Fall collection. Simultaneously we will be selling in Holiday, then followed by Spring 14. Along the way we will continue to work relentlessly on improving the product. It's all about building better product and never becoming complacent. We will continue to be open to retailer and customer feedback and do everything in our power to deliver quality product on time.

What long term strategies do you have in place for Volcom footwear?

It's all centered around leveraging the brand and building better product.

Closing thoughts?

On behalf of everyone at Volcom I would like to say thank you to all the retailers that are supporting this launch around the world. We know we can't do this without you and we are sincerely grateful for your belief in the power of the Stone, we won't let you down...