Outdoor aficionados are familiar with GORE and its technologies: Gore-Tex, Gore-Tex XCR, Wind Stopper…
In the next future, we will start seeing even more Gore, as the Newark (Delaware) based company has announced its intention to make footwear a key focus.
In order to do this, the company is intensifying its relationship with the brands it supplies (The North Face, Nike, New Balance and many others) but also with the whole manufacturing chain seeking to bring Gore-technology based footwear into more and more retailers, factories and brands.
“Footwear is a long-term business for Gore. We’ve had fairly steady growth focusing on ‘obvious value’ categories, such as backpacking and hunting. [But] we came to realize that there were more [categories], and that we could expand beyond purely rugged.” said Matthew Schreiner, global footwear specialist for the company.
The beginning of Gore’s ballooning interest in footwear started six years ago with the development of Gore-Tex XCR, a more breathable membrane that has since evolved into Gore-Tex Extended Comfort. The development of XCR coincided with the explosion of outdoor companies getting into multisport and trail-running shoes. “The industy started to expand into lighter, faster footwear, blending athletic technology and design cues with what has been heavy, rugged footwear,” he said. The applicability of XCR to the new styles (footwear for athletics needs extra breathability to deal with sweat) gave the company new avenues to explore.
Partnering with outdoor clients, as well as running specialists including Nike, New Balance and Asics, has helped transition Gore-Tex from trail running to road running, Schreiner said. But while there are similarities between the two categories, he added, there are new challenges, too. It’s important, for one, to make sure the Gore-Tex membrane between the shoe’s interior lining and exterior shell doesn’t change the overall feel of the shoe. “Runners are extremely finnicky about fit,” Schreiner said. “We have to be sure that adapting a shoe for the Gore-Tex lining doesn’t change the fit, especially for franchise shoes.”
Retail is a particular focus: since Gore doesn’t have the luxury of visible technology (think of the Nike Airs, the Mizuno Waves etc…) the merchandising of products in the retail environment is vital. Never the less, Gore believe its success will depend on including every step of the supply chain, from involving developers and designers, to controlling and improving the production processes.