Kodiak Uses Direct Mail to Gain Toehold in U.S.

Canadian shoe manufacturer Kodiak hopes to plant a reinforced toe in the U.S. marketplace starting this month with the help of a series of business-to-business direct mailers introducing its industrial work boots and outdoor shoes.

The 93-year-old Kodiak brand is widely recognized in Canada, said Wayne Elsey, who was named president of Kodiak USA on March 9. He thinks that the unique positioning of its industrial line, which combines a highly functional shoe with European styling, presents an opportunity to extend the brand's reach.

“Everybody makes [work boots] like your father would wear,” said Elsey, noting that many of Kodiak's work boot styles look like traditional shoes while also offering safety features such as a reinforced toe. “Ours is something I would feel comfortable wearing on a Friday night going out to dinner.”

As of April 1, Elsey will be based at Kodiak's new U.S. corporate offices in White House, TN. The company's headquarters are in Toronto.

What makes Kodiak's industrial line, called Rockfibre, unique is that it doesn't use metal reinforcements, yet is stronger and more durable than traditional composite-toe footwear, Elsey said. Kodiak's patented formula is combined with a unique layering process that makes Rockfibre tough and comfortable, he said.

The technology passes Occupational Safety and Health Administration specifications and has the added benefit of not setting off metal detectors. With many companies tightening security by introducing metal detectors, steel-toe footwear has become less popular as a safety footwear option, Elsey said.

The industrial shoes are available for men and women in traditional work boot styles as well as hiking, athletic and casual styles.

Before the end of March, Kodiak will mail 5,000 catalogs to manufacturing companies that buy shoes for their employees and to industrial shoe distributors with their own retail stores, shoe mobiles — which are mini shoe stores on wheels that travel to manufacturing facilities — and/or Web site.

The catalog will have 24 to 30 pages and showcase more than 50 industrial shoes. It will feature an industrial design, Elsey said. Wholesale prices will range from $30 to $65 per pair.

The catalogs will be accompanied by a one-page letter introducing Kodiak as Canada's favorite boot and mentioning its longevity in the marketplace as well as its integrity, Elsey said. The letter will explain that Kodiak is entering the U.S. market.

The company also manufactures a line of winter boots, hiking shoes, hunting shoes, sandals and slippers for men, women and children that was introduced in the United States in 2003. This line's point of differentiation, Elsey said, is a unique cushioning system in the heel and ball of the shoes' soles that relieves some of the stress caused to knees, ankles and backs by walking.

Starting this month, that line also will be the subject of a direct mail effort, its first in the U.S. market. Before the end of March, 5,000 catalogs featuring 35 products from the lifestyle line will mail to family shoe stores, shoe chains and department stores. That book will have about 18 to 24 pages, and wholesale prices will range from $17 to $40 per pair. Instead of an industrial angle, this book will feature images of families, Elsey said.

Kodiak plans to drop the industrial and lifestyle catalogs yearly in the United States, the same strategy the company uses in Canada. However, for the U.S. marketplace, Kodiak also will mail a monthly product release for each of the industrial and lifestyle segments. The monthly mailer will go to the same list of names as the catalogs.

“Our focus is to get in front of people with impressions as much as we can to build our branding strategy,” Elsey said.

Every month, the two-sided flier will focus on a different design from each line.

The company also plans to test a CD mailing.

Kodiak expects to have its U.S. Web site, kodiakusa.com, operating by April 1. It will be purely informational and won't feature e-commerce, Elsey said.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters

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