What to Expect in 2020
Some of the smartest brands in the business share their thoughts on the year to come.
The New Year is always a fresh start, but 2020 is a whole new ballgame. The start of a new decade, 2020 sees major issues like climate change, retail realignment, shifting trends and technological innovation driving the market.
Footwear Insight doesn’t have a crystal ball, so to get a view on the year to come we did the next best thing: We asked brand heads and market watchers for their thoughts. From sustainability goals to product visions to new ways to appeal to customers, here’s what some of the top thinkers in the outdoor and athletic brand world are predicting for 2020.
What issues will be most critical for the footwear and active/outdoor industries in 2020?
“There are so many players in performance footwear that it can seem daunting to win market share — we might even be left with the impression that it’s a zero-sum game, and the only way to win customers is to take them from another brand. But therein lies our biggest opportunity: Gigantic swaths of potential customers still haven’t been reached because they haven’t received the message that our brand, or even our types of shoes, are for them. We have an opportunity to think creatively about how we reach new consumers, whether they’re younger and more omnivorous in their activities, or they’re from an underrepresented community that, due to our own shortcomings, has not traditionally seen themselves portrayed in outdoor and performance-gear marketing, and may have received the message that these activities aren’t for them. The challenge – and the opportunity – lies in our ability to change that perception, and do it authentically, and welcome new people to this space.” — Wendy Yang, president, Hoka One One
“For our industry, the everyday challenge remains creating value and connection for the runner amidst the literally thousands of brands and products to choose from. The pace of change is fast, and through it all the greatest opportunity — and we view it as a responsibility — continues to be to earn the runner’s trust, mile after mile. We are going to challenge ourselves at Brooks to be a voice of optimism and positivity. Every time you choose to run and move, it is going to make your day better. With so much anxiety, fear and conflict in our culture, sport and running can be a unifying, uplifting experience. We hope to inspire that in 2020.” — Jim Weber, CEO, Brooks Running
“We are at a critical time in our world in respect to global warming, use of natural resources, and our planet as a whole. The outdoor industry has been a leader in prioritizing sustainability and environmental initiatives — our challenge is balancing our business, selling footwear so people can enjoy the outdoors, with a responsibility to our planet and future generations. The first relies on consumer consumption, while the latter pushes back with emphasis on reduction of not only consumer consumption, but also of raw materials, energy, water usage and more. By sharing best practices and finding ways to come together as an industry, we can bring balance to the competing ideas of selling more goods and being responsible global citizens. We can compete on the sales floor, but we should be working together on land use, energy reduction, and climate initiatives. If we don’t do so soon, there won’t be wild places for us to explore and enjoy.” — Amy Beck, president, Oboz Footwear
“We all have a responsibility to reduce our use of oil-based plastics and produce more sustainable products. This is not news. But certainly the urgency is growing. This is not a future issue, this is a ‘now’ issue. We began to take steps many years ago, and what we’re seeing now is that consumer demand, and demand from our retail partners, is really accelerating at a rapid rate. What’s encouraging is that the supply chain is catching up as well which will help build scale.” — Matt O’Toole, president, Reebok
“One of the biggest things that we have to sort through is product parity. I think we have the opportunity to figure out how we differentiate [ourselves]. There’s a ton of retail fatigue, generally speaking, and the market is so reliant on promotions that consumers are bombarded with them.” — Anne Cavassa, president, Saucony
“The industry, by and large, is stuck in the mode of ‘selling shoes.’ By that I mean, much hasn’t kept pace with changing consumer dynamics. People crave entertainment. It’s why Netflix and new travel and restaurant experiences continue to thrive. This is the largest opportunity for the industry in general — [to] wake up retail, [and] create fresh environments and omni-digital experiences, rather than just transactional. We opened two retail stores, one in NYC and one in Venice Beach, California, and both are blowing away all expectations. Why? Because they are true immersive brand experiences. Bring the Apple mentality to footwear and thrive.” — David Kahan, CEO Birkenstock Americas
“One of the biggest challenges our industry is facing is the economic uncertainty and our upcoming election year. We also have the challenge of continuing to attract consumers of diverse demographic, psychographic and socioeconomic backgrounds. We, as an industry, need to come together and continue to push innovation and inclusivity for the good of all people from all backgrounds of life. We want to be welcoming and exciting while continuing to keep people engaged in the sport of running and our industry as a whole.” — Todd Dalhausser, president, Altra
“The industry still has not accepted the shift away from performance to athleisure. Results will be tepid until the industry confronts this change. I am most excited about the continued resurgence of small brands.” — Matt Powell, analyst, NPD
What intention have you set for 2020?
“Be more present and mindful. This is a personal and company goal for 2020. Oboz is in a growth mode in terms of our business and in the number of our employees. We want to ensure that as we grow we retain our values as a company and a brand, as well as our culture.” — Amy Beck, president, Oboz Footwear
“Tweet more.” — Matt Powell, analyst, NPD
“Over the years, as an industry, we’ve done an amazing job in increasing the number of sports fans, but we have not done a great job of getting people more active — or giving them the motivation or inspiration they need to get started or keep going. I’m going to continue to make this a priority at Reebok, with the hope that we can change people’s lives for the better.” — Matt O’Toole, president, Reebok
“I’m fortunate to have found a career that so closely matches my passions, and so my intention for the year is both personal and professional. I want to continue to build an inclusive and representative culture at HOKA, where all employees feel empowered to use their voices and strengths as we build the brand. If we want the brand to be more representative, we need to have a very representative internal staff — more people need to have a seat at the table, so to speak — in order to authentically make Hoka a brand for all athletes.” — Wendy Yang, president, Hoka One One
“From an intention standpoint, I want to deliver mindful authenticity to the work we at the Saucony team do every day. And I believe as a leader in this industry that we have a responsibility to leverage business to do good things in the world, and how we bring that to life on the charitable side is going to be super important. And on the fun side, I’ve committed to train and run a marathon!” — Anne Cavassa, president, Saucony
What are you looking forward to seeing in 2020?
“On’s partnership with Roger Federer will bear its first fruits in 2020. Can’t say anything more.” — Caspar Coppetti, founder, ON Running
“We’re seeing broader license with fun, design and color, [and] more running and fashion moving into the core outdoor. It’s really inspiring new design and allowing for a broader definition of outdoor footwear.” — Amy Beck, president, Oboz Footwear
“For the industry, 2020 promises to be another healthy year, and we expect to see even more people adopting athletic for their everyday wardrobe. This is a trend that only continues to grow.” — Matt O’Toole, president, Reebok
“With 2020 being an Olympic year, there are more eyes on running than ever and it’s such a great moment for us to champion the athletes.” — Jim Weber, CEO, Brooks Running
“From an industry perspective, we’re seeing signs that we’re getting ready to turn the corner to drive growth overall. It was exciting to hear anecdotes [at the end of the year] when we talked to retailers that everyone’s business is strong and poised for 2020. Maybe it is coming with these Olympics cycles, but what I’m excited for is seeing some momentum overall, and a drive back to performance.” — Anne Cavassa, president, Saucony
“On wants to decouple its growth as a brand from its growth of using resources. As an example, we aim to significantly lower our CO2 output needed per pair produced, and all our staff are culturally and financially committed to this goal.” — Caspar Coppetti, founder, ON Running