“Barefoot running and barefoot training is alive and well” was the verdict of Chris Wilson, managing director of Charles Birch Ltd, Vibram’s UK distributor.
A glance at the Vibram stand at any time during the two-day National Running Show at the NEC in Birmingham, in January, would confirm this. Visitors were queuing to have the opportunity to try on the Vibram FiveFingers shoes and go for a run on the treadmill on the stand, and sales far exceeded their expectations.
The biggest question that the Vibram team were asked was “where can we find our local Vibram FiveFingers stockist, we want to see the shoes, we want to try them on”.
Chris said: “Our biggest challenge is to build up a comprehensive network of ‘bricks and mortar’stockists to match the excellent online support that Vibram FiveFingers enjoys from all the leading online sports retailers. Not only are we confident of a good sell through but the distinctive Vibram FiveFingers style always creates interest and a talking point as they are unlike the other sports shoes on offer.”
Vibram UK are not just content with the barefoot running market. With stands being taken at Body Power at the NEC and the Elite Sports Show at Excel in May, as well as the London Marathon Show in April, Vibram are targeting all areas of the sports and fitness market.
The new Vibram FiveFingers 2018 range, which launches at the beginning of March, highlights this approach to accommodate different sports. For example the new V-Aqua with its Megagrip, self draining sole is ideal for most water sports including kayaking, paddle boarding, canyoning and is perfectly placed to serve the new series of SWIMRUN competitors.
KSO EVO the most basic of the Vibram FiveFingers styles remains their top seller. Popular with PT instructors, gym lovers, weight lifters, martial arts enthusiasts and runners alike, the KSO EVO gives the ultimate barefoot experience – at a very affordable price.
For the outdoor barefoot enthusiast Vibram have brought out the V-Alpha which is basically the same as the KSO EVO except with an outdoor heavier cleated Megagrip sole. V-Alpha is ideal for most outdoor training and the shoe that provides the most ground feedback and minimum feel to trail running.
With Vibram FiveFingers founder Robert Fliri back leading the design team the 2018 range is staying true to the “barefoot feel” whilst accommodating the needs of modern athletes and training environments.
Charles Birch are also dedicated to promoting the brand to the general public. Their sponsorship deal with Leeds United has led to extensive advertising at the Elland Road ground across all their new LED screens and digital platforms. This has also led to exposure at other grounds such as West Ham’s City of London Stadium. This has led to a great deal of interest in Vibram FiveFingers from football clubs, players and coaching staff alike.
“We just want people to know about the brand and then try them on,” said Sales Manager Daniel Hume. “When people try them on they love the completely new feeling that the shoes provide and then they invariably want to buy, when people see the advertising it arouses their curiosity and, once converted, people love to stay with Vibram Fivefingers – the only question is which style or colour are they going to buy next?”
Charles Birch and Vibram are also happy to support sporting events. They have just announced sponsorship of the Manchester series of four 5km runs in the centre of Manchester in June organised by Cannonball Events.
“We just need to be out there,” said Chris. “I shall be running all four races myself in my Vibram FiveFingers V-Runs and then supporting my colleagues in answering questions under the Vibram Gazebo – (it does always rain in Manchester doesn’t it?)”.
It is clear from Chris and Dan that the brand, Vibram FiveFingers, is in safe hands and that the new distributor Charles Birch Ltd is open for business. For more information call 01702 530656 or visit www. charlesbirch.com or uk.vibram.com. To talk to sales manager Dan Hume direct on 07960 013475 or managing director Chris Wilson call 07774 740931.