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Brand of the Year: Sperry Top-Sider

The iconic nautical company is turning its passion for the sea into a bid for growth.

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Women’s rain boots

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Tarek Hassan, co-owner of The Tannery stores in Boston, said such partnerships have raised the brand’s profile with trend-savvy shoppers. “The young, hip audience is into it in a major way,” Hassan said, adding that the women’s product, especially rubber boots, also was performing well. “It’s not just a boat shoe anymore. They really are expanding into a lifestyle brand, but they’re keeping the authenticity of [Sperry]. There aren’t too many [companies] that can do that.” 

But even as the brand makes headway in the fashion world, it also is nourishing its roots in performance. This summer saw the launch of ASV, a $140 anti-shock performance boating style aimed at power boating; and Ventis, a top-of-the-line nautical style, developed in conjunction with the U.S. Sailing team, launched this fall.

“We believe in and we are dominating marine performance,” Reingold said.

According to Alison Garcia, category manager for footwear at West Marine in Watsonville, Calif., Sperry is one of the top-selling brands for boating specialists. In fact, the ASV product exceeded the store’s expectations, she said.

“[Sperry] came to the market with something new and innovative for the marine industry — and we’ve not had a lot of that,” Garcia said, noting that the launch was strengthened by the support of the brand. “They did a phenomenal job of hitting all targets and all marketing support to make this program, and the shoe, a really big launch.”

And the brand sees still more opportunity ahead. Special product and marketing efforts will surround Sperry’s 75th anniversary celebration for spring ’10, and the line will bow in more doors, including Bergdorf Goodman. Its relationship with the prestigious New York Yacht Club (Sperry sponsored the first of the club’s biannual race invitationals in Newport, R.I., this summer) is one that Reingold characterizes as long term, with new developments planned as well.

According to Reingold, the sky is the limit for Sperry, with apparel and accessories, global expansion and new retail concepts all possibilities. “We’re pumped on the opportunity for this brand. We’re just starting to realize the opportunity,” he said. “It feels like it’s the beginning.”

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