In conversation with Rob Griffith, global president of Saucony
Interview by Wies Kuijpers
The shoes we wear impact us throughout our day. Some of us pick the first pair we see. Others continuously try to find the perfect pair of shoes to finish their outfit. Then some are looking for the ideal pair of shoes to wear while performing. For countless people, sneakers are the shoes they pick to fit all three or at least one of these roles. History has shown us how sneakers have gone from strictly running or performing shoes to becoming our everyday essentials. They have surpassed our expectations and have grown into a whole industry. However, I am most interested in where the sneaker industry’s future will take us. With the rate of new trends, I am curious about what the experts say about the future of the sneaker industry. To learn more, I had the pleasure of talking with some of the best people in the industry. Rob Griffith, the European president of Saucony, agreed to share some of his wisdom with us. Saucony is a true heritage brand within the sneaker industry. They have been around since 1910, and they started with running shoes and have grown into a true industry leader for performance and leisure sneakers.
WK, Could you briefly explain what you do as the global president of Saucony Daily?
RG I’ve been with the business for ten years. Working at Wolverine, I started working for lifestyle brands. For five years, I worked as the general vice president of Merrell. I worked for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa based in London. Two years ago, I was promoted to managing director of Europe, The Middle East and Africa within Wolverine. While managing this portfolio, I got close to the Saucony team. Having worked closely with their teams in the past made the transition fairly easy when I got promoted to European President of Saucony. We have been doing a lot of strategy work during the transition period. We are currently evaluating how Saucony will develop over the next three to five years, how to increase the brand awareness for the company’s leisure and sports divisions, as well as where we should position ourselves in the market.
WK Has there been an important trend that has helped develop the company Over the years?
RG, I am not sure if one big thing has happened that has influenced the course of our work/the brand. However, we are keen to look at ways to change the perception of the brand at the highest level. We work with two types of shoes. Leisure and sports sneakers. What we are doing now is bringing things together. It’s not a case of choosing one or the other but how both lines can strengthen each other. We are trying to understand better how to move forward from a product and a communication perspective to appeal to a relevant consumer and allow that to feed into our other tears of distribution.
WK Are you talking about the combination between running shoes and lifestyle shoes?
RG There is always a relation between the both of them. What I mean by that is that we have 150 years of history and have always been at the forefront of innovation. It is about capitalising on that innovative nature and culture that we got and using it to expand the brand’s reach. We want to use this to inform our consumers.
WK You have worked for Wolverine Worldwide for a long time; you have seen the industry change and evolve. What is happening today that will influence the strategy for the brand Saucony?
RG We are seeing a shift to what we call retro designs. Something Saucony excels in Retro tech, a technology we were famous for in the early 2000s. A couple of brands are at the forefront of this trend, with Saucony being one of the leaders. We have that history that allows us to go back into our archives and pull out certain looks, feels, or technologies that go with this trend.
WK So, is it a combination of actual retro styles from your archive combined with the knowledge of today put into running and lifestyle sneakers?
RG Exactly. On the performance side, we have that industry-standard cutting-edge technology. So now we are looking into how to bring that to the fashion level as well. If you think about it, we have this amazing opportunity to bring both sides together into a shoe that will appeal to the fashion world.
WK Could you explain how the performance side of your company shows through in the current and upcoming collections?
RG We have drawn on our past technology, the grid technology. This grid technology was inspired by the grid in a tennis racket. In the early 2000s, we took inspiration from the tennis racket and developed that into a new technology. We have reimagined it for the current collection, Grid nxt, a contemporary version of this grid technology.