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Q&A With Rockport's Michael Rupp

CEO's dramatic overhaul is focused on fresh product and international growth.

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CANTON, Mass. — Michael Rupp is a man on a mission.

The Rockport president and CEO, who took over the company in January 2008, is charging ahead with a plan to refresh the brand image, dramatically expand its global presence and reinvigorate the women’s offering.

“We understand that Rockport took on a little bit of dust in the last couple of years, so [we’re looking at] how we can make the brand relevant for today’s consumer, and how we can bring it [to life] in a global, relevant way,” he said.

Rupp’s strategy is to focus on the brand’s comfort heritage while upping the style quotient. “The qualities of the product are clearly comfort, lightweight, flexibility, what we call walkability,” he said. “That’s what we are focusing on. That’s what people expect from Rockport.”

The Adidas veteran was relaxed and excited as he sat down with Footwear News to discuss Rockport’s plans for making a fresh start, and wasn’t interested in reviewing the many makeover attempts the brand has undergone.

“Looking back, there are always some things you maybe would not do again,” he said. “[But] we are really looking at the future, not trying to criticize the past.”

To build the brand, Rupp has already made a number of major changes, including enlisting a new product team.

“With me came a head of marketing [Shari Fabiani] and head of product creation [Daniel Tschuemperlin], and we have category directors — one for men’s [Dave Pompel], one for women’s [Haysun Hahn] — who are both new, and we have a completely new design team working [on women’s],” he said. “If you really want to turn the rudder that drastically, you need a new team to do it.”

The women’s team has been charged with growing and refashioning the collection — and their first efforts will be on display at next week’s FFANY show.

“Spring ’10 will be the first time we show a complete, end-to-end women’s range,” Rupp said. “We have a [collection] now that encompasses high heels to sporty walking-type products to very traditional New England product.”

The new line will get prominent placement in Rockport’s new concept locations, which put the focus on women’s product in the front of the stores.

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