Friday, May 24, 2024

New Balance

Fearlessly Independent

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Standing for something bigger than sneakers, New Balance champions those who are driven by their passions and they drive meaningful change in communities around the world. In this interview, we spend some time with COO Dave Wheeler to learn more about a company that has seen explosive growth in recent times and how they plan on maintaining this in the future.

Founded back in 1906 by William J. Riley, the goal of New Balance is to aid athletes in their pursuits and to live a more healthy and active lifestyle. Initially designed to aid citizens in the Boston area who had foot issues and help them with ‘New Balance’, the company has evolved from making arch supports to competing in the athletic market with the launch of the ‘Trackster’ back in the 1960s, to today being one of the fastest growing footwear and apparel brands in the world with its own distinct heritage.

“Today on a global level our store portfolio has reached just over 2,500. Of these, we have three global flagships, one in our home market of Boston, along with one in London and one in Tokyo, two globally renowned retail capitals,” highlights Dave Wheeler, COO of New Balance.
One of its more recent markets where the company has seen impressive growth is the Middle East, where they now operate around 20 stores across the GCC. Their pinnacle store in this region is in Dubai Mall which opened back in October 2021 and most recently they launched a new concept called Uncommon Common, which opened in Dubai Hills Mall and there are two more to come in the next two months in the UAE.

As we move onto discussing what is in the development pipeline, Wheeler comments that within the product innovation pipeline, they are doing two things that are of pivotal importance. One is that they have a world-class consumer insight team that uses data in creative ways and when this is combined with the other, this being physical analysis in their sports research lab with their elite global brand ambassadors such as Coco Gauff and Bukayo Saka from the tennis and football worlds respectively, as well as the common runner or athlete, it is helping New Balance and informing them how to make better and more functional products in the future instead of recreating previous lines and items.

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“We are continuing to innovate across all facets of the business and specifically our direct-to-consumer model with some of our new retail concepts that we have brought to market around the world. For example, we are stripping back the amount of products in-store and instead allowing consumers to shop the brand and become fully immersed in the experience.”

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Over the last few years the company has focused specifically on social media due to its importance in the modern retail world. They utilise multiple social platforms to show off their products and capabilities and share their stories and the fact that they still make their footwear in the US, highlighting how their employees handcraft and produce some of the best athletic products on the market today.

As our conversation with Dave takes us on to sustainability, he explains that New Balance takes this topic very seriously and is focused on their carbon reduction commitments. Whilst they are working well in this environment, he admits there is work to do.

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“We aimed by the end of 2023 to reduce scope one and two emissions by 60 per cent verses 2019 and even though we have essentially doubled in company size in this time, we still reached 59 per cent so as an example we almost hit this important target and will continue to improve in this arena moving forward.”

While the ethos of the company is all about being fearlessly independent, when Dave first spoke with the Chairman James S. Davis, he said that the company is not looking to be the biggest; it is looking to be the best. It is the honesty, integrity and teamwork that set the tone and the company culture that each employee walks into work with each morning.

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Before the interview ends we ask Dave about the future of the business and the challenges that lie ahead?

“I think the innovation around product and how we connect with consumers, especially with consumer tastes changing on a regular basis, means it is very challenging to nail down, but I feel we have done a reasonably good job of predicting what those changes might be,” Wheeler comments.

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“As we look to the future, we feel that taking risks remains important to us. So being disruptive and uncomfortable means taking some risks and being willing to fail sometimes, but we have learnt this is ok as long as we learn from it and move on to the next challenge. This strategy has brought us this far and we look forward to seeing where it takes us next.”

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