W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.
Issue link: http://wetoday.epubxp.com/i/534576
14 Western & English Today SUMMER 2015 in Western, English, work, fashion and outdoor categories. T e company doesn't just use the word "technology" casually. For footwear, it includes more than 20 names such as 4LR,™ ATS,® Colbalt,™ DualPro,® Duratread™ and Everlon™— many being Ariat's own. The company's apparel reaps the benef ts of more than 30 technological innovations such as Bluesign,® Clarino,™ CoolMax® and T insulate.™ For Cross and company, footwear and apparel aren't just "worn." T ey must perform to the highest expectations, just like the people who buy and wear them. BOOTS DO DOUBLE-DUTY Having grown up on a Pennsylvania horse farm, Cross knew from personal experience that riding was one thing, while trudging around all day at a barn was quite another. T at realization remained the inspiration for boots that looked good and felt good. Eyes ever-focused on the goal, Cross says starting Ariat meant designing, developing, c o m m e r c i a l i z i n g , m a n u f a c t u r i n g and selling in a crowded, traditional marketplace. It meant changing the mindset of retailers about a new brand with a new approach. "We never really had any pushback from riders, who completely understood the need for comfort, but we did initially have some pushback from stores," she says. "We of ered a product they weren't sure riders would accept because it was something dif erent. And some said honestly that 'I don't really need another brand of boots.' " Forming her company also meant taking a lead in a then very male- dominated footwear industry with few women in senior management roles. Cross remains characteristically self-effacing about it all and would rather not focus on gender. "Anyone building a business in this competitive environment can be considered a trailblazer," she says. "Our approach always has some elements that speak to tradition, mixed with innovative technology and a performance focus. We design from the inside out in many cases." Designing also means covering the bases by assessing performance attributes in materials, patterns, f t and construction, along with breathability, the right amount of mobility and even SPF (sun protection factor) f nish. "For customers who want it, we also of er slightly untraditional looks," she says. T e fact that nearly 30 percent of Ariat's customers never sit in a saddle makes perfect sense to her. "Af er all, people wear running shoes while shopping or walking the dog. It's about lifestyle." EARNING EXCELLENCE Cross believes that being a successful leader means having more questions than answers. She strives to be "both pilot and air traffic controller"—utilizing concurrent, parallel thinking, she says. She also tries to think "ahead of the market" by three to f ve years, no simple task in a world where opinions change in the f ash of a Facebook like or a Twitter tweet. That means never resting and never assuming. She measures "success" by growth with retailers, by employee satis- faction, and by nearly 40 dif erent tracking measures. She's never thought, "Wow. I've really made it now." T ere's much more to it than that. "We need to earn that feeling every day," she says. "It means that products are working and customers are happy and buying more — replacing that pair of boots with another pair of Ariats. It's wonderful to know we've earned the business, trust and loyalty of our customers." Cross says the company's long list of sponsored riders in both disciplines features those athletes who, like Ariat, are focused on performance and seek products that support that level of achievement. They include top competitors such as bull rider Matt Triplett, hunter rider Liza Boyd, show jumper Beezie Madden, eventer Phillip Dutton, reiner Shawn Flarida, bareback rider Kaycee Field and calf roper Jackie Hobbs-Crawford. "T ey are strong competitors and want to push themselves just like we also push ourselves every day," Cross says. "We believe they bring the very best values and quality to the sport and to their individ- ual performances. We look for real com- mitment, character and at what they give back. T ey have passion and are training and teaching other riders. T ey are good for the sport overall, as are the events we support." Ariat's sponsored English event roster includes the FEI World Cup Jumping Finals, Washington International Horse Show, American Gold Cup and Winter Equestrian Festival. For Western events, it's the Professional Bull Riders, National World Series of Team Roping, National High School Rodeo Finals and The American Rodeo, among others. WESTERN TRENDS, FOOTWEAR AND APPAREL: ✯ Turquoise for both categories, representing the Western heritage most often seen in jewelry ✯ Bohemian chic — fringe as an accent detail, along with the hippie chic look, carried through with the fabulously f irtatious Gold Rush boot. ENGLISH APPAREL TRENDS: ✯ Sporty colors, bright blues and multi-colored tops ✯ Ariat's famous focus on technical features such as cooling, ventilation, moisture management and SPF ENGLISH FOOTWEAR TRENDS: ✯ Fun tops for tall boots with ostrich- and snake-printed leather, and a slight twist on classic boots ✯ Waterproof tall boots, such as the new Sherborne H20.