The British brand of running shoes is reporting a particularly strong 60 percent increase in forward orders in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, led by Scandinavia, Germany and the U.K. Globally, the company's orders for off-road footwear are up by 20 percent, with significant growth in outdoor and running specialty stores.
The management of Inov-8, which has been expanded, attributes the progress to its previously reported introduction of the world's first line of running shoes that use graphene in the outsole for extra grip and durability (The Compass Vol. 10 N° 24+25), combined with the launch of newly developed lines of lightweight clothing and backpacks.
The company has also strengthened its business in the EMEA region through new distributor contracts with Off Piste in France, Tim Barrett in Switzerland and Branded Footwear & Clothing in South Africa. Off Piste, which is replacing Chronofocus starting with the spring/summer 2019 season, is already the French distributor of Camelbak.
Inov-8's first line of graphene shoes, called the G-Series, is set for a launch from July 12 through a network of 250 selected retailers. Developed in only 15 months together with University of Manchester, it consists of three models – one for trail running, one for off-road running and one for CrossFit and other fitness activities.
For the spring/summer 2019 season, the technology will be applied by Inov-8 to its best-selling Roclite collection, making it more accessible. The number of points of sale is expected to double as a result.
Inov-8 also reports a 10 percent increase in autumn/winter orders worldwide for its small line of lightweight off-road running clothing, with particularly strong progress in the U.K., Scandinavia, the U.S. and Canada. The segment is benefiting from the support of Descente in sourcing and the use of high-tech Japanese materials like Pertex. Descente, which previously distributed the brand in some Asian markets, acquired an 80 percent stake in Inov-8 three years ago.
For spring/summer 2019, the company is going to introduce a new line of running packs with the introduction of a new lightweight two-in-one running vest that can accommodate two packs of different size for hydration and other purposes. It was created with the help of a new product manager, James Rogers, who previously developed motorcycle helmets.
Meanwhile, new managers are helping to expand the trail running business of Inov-8 in North America, where it has been focusing on fitness, and its CrossFit business in Europe, where it has been focusing on trail running.
The company's trail running business in North America is up by 30 percent in terms of autumn/winter orders, counting important new clients such as Jackrabbitt and REI, following the hiring last summer of Brandan Murray, who worked previously for New Balance, as U.S. sales manager, and the more recent appointment of Christian Triquet, former general manager of Merrell Canada, as regional manager.
Inov-8's functional fitness and training shoe operations are expected to get a more global coverage with a very recent contract signed with Fran Calvert, based in the U.K., to develop new targeted marketing campaigns and assist in the development of the category. A regular competitor at the Crossfit Games Meridian Regionals, she has also served as communications manager for British Weight Lifting.
With Michael Price in charge of product development marketing for the past 20 months, after stations at Reebok and Asics EMEA, Inov-8 is spending more on demand creation, partly through its participation in running races and other grassroots events.
In addition to other events that we have already reported about, the brand sponsors a leading trail running event in the U.K., the Lakeland Trails, and other major off-road events. Since last year, it is the sponsor of the Innsbruck Trail Festival, regarded as the second-largest trail event in Europe.
Inov-8 has just announced that it will be the official footwear brand of the 2018 Obstacle Course Racing World Championships (OCRWC), the independent championship event in obstacle course racing created by Adventurey. Last year's edition of the OCRWC attracted more than 4,000 athletes from 67 nations.
In 2018, the race will be held for the first time in its history in the U.K., where Inov-8 is based. As part of the new partnership between the footwear brand and OCRWC, obstacle course racers are now eligible, with a code, for 10 percent off all Inov-8 shoes on its website.
This summer, Inov-8's G-Series shoes will be worn by athletes competing in two Red Bull 400 World Championship races and at the UTMB. The Red Bull events will consist of running up a 400-meter ski jumping board in Germany and climbing up a steep hill in Austria.
Inov-8 has raised its presence in U.S. events like the Rainshowdow in the Pacific Northwest and the Tuckfest in North Carolina, among others. It is also the sponsor of the Trail Film Festival, which tours 25 cities in the country.
Furthermore, Inov-8 is building up the digital part of its business, hiring new people to develop new tools for its wholesale clients rather than e-commerce. It has adopted the aWorkbook software program to reduce selling costs and introduce new products more quickly.