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Mar 27, 2017

Living the brand makes the difference for inov-8

Michael Price, inov-8 global product and marketing director, speaks to Mark Hayhurst about future plans and life in the Lakes

A strong ethos, focus and innovation are drivers behind the success of inov-8.

The company prides itself in designing high quality, innovative products in both the running and performance training sectors.

They have two working hubs in the UK; one in Crook, County Durham, a stone’s throw from where the company was born in 2003, and the other in Staveley, at the epicentre of the Lake District mountain running scene.

Their third hub is just outside of Boston, US. And the passion behind the desire to be the best in their market has impressed Michael Price.

He took over as the brand’s global product and marketing director last September, after previously working for Asics in Amsterdam and is now based in the Lakes.

Michael said: “I have been impressed by what a small group of people can do when they are very focused on who the target audience is, so trial runners and CrossFit athletes.

“One of the things I have found here in my first six months is that everybody is out doing activity, everyone is out every lunchtime running, so the product is tested to destruction and then it is improved.”

inov-8 is now owned by Descente, a Japanese sportswear maker, who were previously the brand’s distributors in that part of the world. Descente own 80 per cent of the brand with founder Wayne Edy holding on to the remaining20 per cent.

Michael added: “Our business is split a third in the UK, a third in the US and a third for the rest of the world, which for a business that is only 14 years old (in June) is very mature.

“The UK business, over the last five years, is growing at a compound annual growth rate of nine per cent.

“In the US we have been changing the mix and, in a country where we were adopted as a fitness brand, we’ve grown the trail running business there at a double digit rate. We’ve also secured a seven-store test with REI and the early signs from that are very positive.

“We continue to have a very strong following in the US in CrossFit – a market that has matured and seen other brands come in to it.

“We are staying very strong with what we call the hardcore CrossFit athlete and our products regularly get rated as the best in that marketplace.”

And it is the focus on their core business that drives the brand forward. inov-8 want to be at the heart of the trail running community across the world.

And they are backing up their commitment through sponsorship of races in the UK, US and Europe.

Michael said: “We have signed four race series’ in the US – Rainshadow Running, Human Potential, Runbum and Desert Dash – as well as the Innsbruck Trail Festival in The Alps. In the UK we have the hugely popular Lakeland Trials series, Maverick Race, The Three Peaks, Snowdon and the English Fell Running Championships. We believe in investing in the community, in the heart of trail running, mountain running and fell running.”

And the innovation continues with new launches prepared for this year. In June inov-8 will launch their new TRAILROC 285 and 270 series – which is aimed at trail running in hard and rocky conditions.

Michael added: “It’s geared a lot towards the US. The TRAILROC is closer to the ground, has our patented grip design and is the first shoe we have put a rock plate in – but it moves with the foot so you still get that natural movement. We’ve put it through a lot of scrutinized testing and the feedback has been really positive. We’re very excited about this launch.”

But their innovation doesn’t only apply to shoes. inov-8 moved into the apparel market in 2013 and, along with equipment, it now makes up 15 per cent of their business.

Michael added: “It’s tough doing clothing and equipment – if you get it wrong you get left with stock. Our products are lightweight, fitted and it performs in the toughest conditions.

“We are bringing out a new waterproof shell jacket called the AT/C PROTEC-SHELL for AW17. It takes lightweight protection in running jackets to the next level. Weighing just 360g, it’s packed with innovative technical features to keep mountain and trail runners dry, warm and protected in wet and wild conditions. The three layer Pertex Shield Pro fabric works in tandem with features such as streamline technology on the cuffs, which diverts water from the hands.”

And Michael believes that their strength in innovation, wanting to push the boundaries and the ethos of the people who work for the company is what will see the brand continue to grow.

He said: “As a group of people, all at inov-8 live the brand and live the marketplace. Rather than going out to research or study the marketplace, we live it. I love that.

“We are on a path to double the business and I can really see that happening. We will do that through developing the best products, continuing to innovate and making sure that we grow this team with similar like-minded people.”

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