ROCKFORD — They’re just shoes, aren’t they? What may appear to the untrained eye to be a simple collection of outdoorsy footwear is actually one of the hottest brands in the world, according to Advertising Age magazine.
Merrell, the flagship sport utility brand of Rockford-based Wolverine World Wide, was named one of Ad Age’s Marketing 50 in the magazine’s Nov. 7 issue. Editors chose Merrell (and its 49 cohorts) as leaders in several areas of product development and marketing: “Insightful research; consumer-savvy design and development; ingenious outreach; smart retail partnerships; and an array of media options never dreamed of a decade ago.”
Merrell has been one of Wolverine’s largest success stories in recent years. The company acquired the brand in 1997 and has grown it into a major player in the international sportswear market. Merrell’s U.S. sales have increased nearly 500 percent since Wolverine purchased the brand. Last year, Merrell and the rest of the company’s Outdoor Group accounted for nearly 30 percent of Wolverine’s annual revenue. This year, thanks in part to the success of the Merrell brand, Wolverine World Wide is on track to have its first-ever $1 billion sales year.
The company’s Outdoor Group has seen seven consecutive years of double-digit growth. The 2004 Outdoor Group sales exceeded $286 million, with more than 10 million pairs of shoes sold worldwide.
Advertising Age recognized Merrell’s use of the “store-within-a-store” marketing model. Wolverine installs elaborate displays and point-of-sale materials within a larger sporting goods or department store, giving the Merrell section a distinct feel of its own. The company said that in the 156 stores where the Merrell store-within-a-store model has been implemented, sales of Merrell products have risen anywhere from 80 percent to 300 percent.
“The entire Wolverine World Wide team is proud to have Merrell gain this recognition as one of the top consumer brands in the marketplace today,” said Timothy J. O’Donovan, Wolverine World Wide’s chairman and CEO. “Through a combination of innovative product design and creative marketing strategy, Merrell continues to be a top performer within our Outdoor Group and across our entire portfolio of global brands.”
Wolverine recently announced a joint venture with Patagonia, a leader in the outdoor sport clothing market. Wolverine has begun the development of a new line of Patagonia footwear that will be released in the spring of 2007.