Male Call

Sheepskin boot brand Bearpaw heeds customer requests for more men’s styles.

With everyone from tween girls to Grammy Award-winning country crooners like Gretchen Wilson sporting Bearpaws nowadays, it may seem like the brand has tapped the market. But as Bearpaw devotees repeatedly posted on Facebook and Twitter, the company was missing out on one major chunk of the footwear industry: men.

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Sheepskin boot brand Bearpaw heeds customer requests for more men’s styles.

With everyone from tween girls to Grammy Award-winning country crooners like Gretchen Wilson sporting Bearpaws nowadays, it may seem like the brand has tapped the market. But as Bearpaw devotees repeatedly posted on Facebook and Twitter, the company was missing out on one major chunk of the footwear industry: men.

“We started hearing from all of our consumers on our social sites: ‘Hey, do you make shoes for men? These are so warm and comfortable, and I want to get some for my husband,'” says Randy McKinley, vice president of global marketing for the brand. Not to mention, McKinley adds, the male portion of the sales staff at Bearpaw had been jonesin’ for some styles to sport at trade shows. “We wanted to have boots to wear ourselves,” he says. “A lot of us are from athletic sales backgrounds, and we’re use to wearing what we’re selling.”

It all added up to one conclusion: It was time for the brand to dive deeper into the men’s market. Available for Fall ’11, Bearpaw is introducing four new styles, in addition to carrying over two classic sheepskin boots for men, the Stowe and Dream. Featuring tumble leathers and oily-pressed suede for a rougher texture, McKinley says the new collection, which retails for $110 to $140, will stick to classic colors like black, dark brown and cognac and will appeal to guys looking for timeless style and rugged appeal. “Our target isn’t necessarily that fashion guy who’s looking to be the leader,” he explains. The brand also expects the men’s shoppers to skew a little older than Bearpaw’s female demographic, in the 24 to 35 age range. Seeing this season as a way to alert retailers to the collection, Bearpaw plans to expand in Fall ’12, with a chukka boot, a slip-on boot and a redesigned Chelsea boot style, similar to this season’s “Larkin.”

McKinley says the brand plans to promote the collection organically, through social media and product placements—unlike competitor Ugg, who enlisted New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a spokesman for its men’s collection. “I’m not going to pay Tom Brady,” McKinley says. “Those guys are an amazing brand and they’re a marketing machine,” he adds of Ugg, adding, “They’re Coke and we’re Pepsi, and we’re OK with that.” —Audrey Goodson

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