Consumers in the United States have been beating the sustainability drum for the past two years, urging manufacturers and retailers to change their ways. And many in the footwear industry have heeded the call.
But big players in the workplace say that price and performance are still much more important than environmental friendliness when it comes to what people want.
Built to last
“At this point, [our] retail partners tell us they’re not getting questions from their customers about whether the footwear is eco-friendly,” says Robin Skillings, VP and global GM of Keen Utility.
But Keen Inc. and other companies that make work boots, like their customers, have started to build for the next generation.
They do this by incorporating environmental concerns into their processes, either in anticipation of future demand or because it’s part of their company’s mission.
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A Match Made in Retail
“We know that obviously there will be an expanding audience for sustainability as that younger generation moves into careers that require footwear or safety footwear,” said Karen McSorley, Kodiak brand manager.
“They expect more from brands.” “They place a high value on sustainability.”
Twisted X’s Lee Lemon, VP of sales, agreed: “This is not a passing fad.” As people learn more about the benefits of products made in a sustainable way, they will expect to find shoes that are made with sustainable materials. Retailers will undoubtedly need something to offer them.
Laurie Grijalva, chief merchandising officer at Boot Barn, which sells work footwear in nearly 300 of its stores, said the company would welcome more environmentally friendly options in that category. “I wish we saw more, but we don’t see much of it,” Grijalva said.
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Made in USA
She mentioned that Boot Barn has been looking for more Made in America products to reduce the impact of transportation. “However, even that is difficult.” “I believe that if more sustainable products were available, we would definitely want them.”
However, she added, pricing is a challenge for brands. If the cost of sustainability rises, it could be a major deterrent.
Also, work shoes must continue to meet strict government safety standards. This makes it very hard to change parts like protective toe caps, puncture-resistant plates, resistance to electric hazards, and other parts.
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