Cow to shoe with Ecco

ECCO1Danish shoe retailer, Ecco is gaining a foothold – no pun intended – after more than a decade on our shores.

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Danish-headquartered Ecco shoe stores has grown its Australian presence to 20 stores off the back of strong local growth in recent years.

Since opening its first store in Australia in 2002, Ecco has enjoyed steady expansion. However, that growth has ramped up sizably in the last two years, and Anthony Brooks, retail manager of Ecco Shoes Pacific, said the business is in for the long haul on our shores.

“We’ve had good growth since 2014 because up to that point we had 12 stores,” Brooks said. “In the last 18-24 months, we’ve added eight stores.

“It’s been a balanced growth cycle because we’re here for the long-term. “Just prior to Christmas, we opened our first store in the Gold Coast.”

That Gold Coast store, in the new look Pacific Fair Shopping Centre, opened on December 15. This recently opened Queensland store joins 10 Ecco stores in NSW, two in the ACT, and seven in Victoria (predominantly Melbourne), including the Doncaster, store which opened on December 2.

There’s another store planned for the Melbourne CBD, scheduled to open on April 28 in St Collins Lane – a new premium retail destination that’s being developed and touted as being, ‘where international and high-end labels meet high street fashion and laneway chic’.

Also on the horizon is another southeast Queensland site in Harbour Town on the Gold Coast, due to open on May 12. Brooks said that

Queensland is now a key focus area or Ecco.

Large concept stores are Ecco’s dominant profile, but its network also features a number of outlet stores as well. Out of the 22 stores that Ecco will soon have in Australia, there will be five outlet stores.

Global reach, family values

Since forming in 1963 in a small town in Denmark, this family-owned business has expanded throughout the world. Ecco shoes and accessories are now sold in 88 countries at 3,327 Ecco shops and concessions, and at more than 14,000 sales points around the world. The company employs around 19,800 people worldwide.

So although a large company with an expansive global reach, being a family business means a family atmosphere is part of the Ecco culture and is encouraged. Indeed, a number of local staff have celebrated their 10 year long-service leaves.

“We’re actually a family business, so that gives you some idea of the [long-term] view of being in business,” Brooks said.

Ecco owns and operates its own production and retail facilities – from “cow to shoe”, as Brooks puts it.

“We’re cow to shoe – that is, we own the manufacturing part of the business, but we’re also vertical, so we also have our own retail sites around the world. Australia is, of course, part of the equation,” he explained.

Shoes & more

As well as shoes, accessories have become another business focus. This includes bags as well as belts and other small leather goods.

“We have our own tanneries and use our leather in our shoes, of course. It just makes sense that we use our leather in our bags as well. It’s been quite successful and definitely a growing part of our successful business,” Brooks said.

The main focus though is shoes – for men, women and children. There are formal ranges, however casual leisure is an important offer.

“There’s obviously a move to casual lifestyle or ‘athletic leisure’ – just to walk more comfortably, be more versatile. We’re known for our comfort footwear. It’s what our customers love about us,” he explained.

This popularity is evidenced in the second edition of the company’s Ecco Intrinsic shoe being brought out this week – and only a few months after the first edition.

Introduced in Australia on February 10, the Ecco Intrinsic Karma features new styles – sneakers, loafers and ballerinas – in new colours of cobalt blue, turquoise, lemon, fuchsia and coral, which are relevant to the athletic leisure lifestyle.

Ecco-hides on wall

This follows the first edition of the Intrinsic that was introduced across world markets in late November 2015. It’s presented as a versatile product that can go from more formal work wear to social occasions. “It’s also really good for our climate,” Brooks said. “The shoes are quite light to wear and super comfortable. You can wear them all day and into the evening. We’re trying to show we’re contemporary [and] more relevant to a wider market.”

Ecco is aiming to align the local launch of select new products to almost the same time as the northern hemisphere. In March, a new selection of colours will be brought out for another popular selling and appropriately named sneaker called ‘Cool’ – which has good ‘breathability’ qualities – exactly a year after its launch.

Danish décor

Being a Danish brand, the store décor is typically Scandinavian, which is also very ‘on trend’ in the retail space. This translates to light timber flooring and white walls. Indeed, the use of white shelving against white walls for display gives the impression that the products are almost floating, or suspended on the wall. The favoured retail recipe employed is employed by Ecco: “We try to make the shoes the hero,” Brooks said.

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To continue to enhance the ambiance, leather hides have been introduced as a wall feature, while leather tiles have been incorporated within the last six months in shop front exteriors and interior walls, a ceiling and some tables in the three most recent stores.

“Being leather, I thought it would be a nice touch. This complements the brand as well,” Brooks said.

The hides come in different colours depending on the season’s fashion. “At the moment it is a quite colourful palette and we’re just matching that. We can change it on a seasonal basis,” he said.

To complement the brand as it expands its store network, premium sites in premium shopping centres are now being targeted.

“Being a premium brand, we like to wait for the right location,” stressed Brooks. “So we’re quite patient about that … we have Chadstone, Doncaster, Westfield Sydney,” he said.

“The retailers located near the stores are usually also premium brands. It’s about a quality site and being able to be successful in that site over the long-term.”

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