It wasn’t easy. But, per Ecco’s just released annual report for 2020, the Scandinavian-based comfort brand held its own and then some despite the unprecedented headwinds brought on by the pandemic. While net sales dropped from approximately 1.3 billion Euros in 2019 to just under $1.1 billion, the company reported a profit before tax of 45 million Euros. Moreover, Ecco made record investments (195 million Euros) that included the acquisition of its business in Russia as well as a large number of Ecco shops in the Middle East and the Netherlands. In addition, major investments were made in digital platforms, advanced marketing capabilities and infrastructure enabling product innovation.
“Ecco’s 2020 results reflect the unprecedented impact of the pandemic, which led to a temporary closure of most of our shops and an unparalleled decline in profit,” states Ecco CEO Steen Borgholm. “However, our business model and organization have once again proven robust, allowing us to act swiftly in times of change.”
To be even more relevant for consumers going forward, Ecco accelerated certain strategic initiatives, led by its latest brand and marketing expression, #MovesLikeYou, that shifted towards a more versatile, “new normal” product range. Think sneakers and athleisure.
Along those lines, a 2020 highlight involved taking Ecco’s Tray-Technology to the next level. “Using this new technology allows us to combine state-of the art rubber with our innovative FluidForm sole construction,” says Felix Zahn, product director for Ecco Americas. “The outcome is pretty amazing: a much better performing product with more grip and durability, plus an upgraded look without sacrificing any of the amazing Ecco comfort features.” Call-out styles are the new StreetTray sneaker franchise, featuring a minimalistic look inspired by the iconic old-school tennis shoes, and the new CityTray dress franchise. “The CityTray’s are made on a sleek, new European last with a modern interpretation of a timeless formal shoe,” Zahn adds. “We saw very strong sales in the beginning of the year, and we’re confident it will regain speed once we have Covid-19 behind us a bit.”
Another bright spot for Ecco amid a dark year industrywide was its ongoing sustainability efforts. The introduction in 2019 of its Dri-Tan technology, which eliminates almost entirely the use of water in the tanning process, expanded to nearly the entire line in 2020. “DriTan is an amazing water- and energy-saving tanning technology unique to Ecco,” Zahn says, noting the company’s relentless efforts to discover innovative solutions. “We never stand still, and we especially accelerate on innovation in times of crisis.” To that end, a number of ambitious environmental targets have also been set. By 2030, Ecco aims to run on renewable energy and in its tanneries use bio-based chemicals and closed-loop water systems only.
“Even as we operate our business in the new reality, we’re determined to make sure we don’t lose sight of the sustainability agenda which ranks high among Ecco’s priorities,” Borgholm says. “We don’t have all the answers and are not perfect, but we have a unique opportunity to be frontrunners and secure progress in our industry by raising the bar for responsible shoemaking. So that’s what we do.”