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Grenson Shoes

Grenson shoes have been around since 1866, but despite their long history I only became familiar with them around 2 or 3 years ago.

The Grenson that I am familiar with is a luxury shoe brand, with years of experience, skill and craftsmanship in footwear. I think of Grenson as the brand you would buy as a 20-35 year old when you first feel grown-up. Perhaps you’ve just landed a new job in the city, best man at a friend’s wedding or you’ve out-grown those battered vans and you’re looking for a smart, stylish and youthful (not stuffy) shoe for every day wear. You’re looking to invest in a great pair of shoes, you want quality, perhaps a British brand with heritage. Grenson would be my go to brand.

Grenson shoes Facebook

Anyway, I hope that goes some way towards explaining how disappointed I was to see Grenson’s latest Facebook update. Noooooooooooo. It’s the dreaded brand cycle kicking into action. Grenson are on the verge of big success. They have some really premium stockists, a loyal customer base and now they are teetering on the cusp of mainstream. The FHM coverage is one of the first tests. Grenson failed. Just because a publication gives you some coverage it doesn’t mean you have to get into bed with them. Sure, publish coverage from GQ, Esquire, even Shortlist, but not FHM. It isn’t a premium publication and you are a premium brand. For every 1000 people that read the feature in FHM you may have caught the attention of 1% of those readers, perhaps 10% of those (the 1%) will go on to become customers. However what is the impact on your existing loyal social fans? How many of them, like myself, cringed when they saw Keeley’s  skank pose plastered in their newsfeed? It’s what I would have expected from a brand like Voi or Luke but not Grenson.

The same goes for the Pixie Lott picture. It’s great that celebrities are endorsing your brand but you don’t have to push it upon your existing customers. When i think of Pixie I see Lipsy. Velour tracksuits and cheap party dresses to be worn at the Lloyds bar in the local town on a Saturday night. I don’t want to associate a brand I like with that lifestyle.

Not wanting to be the miserable grumbling critic, which is all too easy, I’ve also gone to the effort of making some recommendations:

Friends Of Grenson Mock Up

Team up with non-competitive adjacencies; work with a tailor, shirt maker, premium fashion brand (think Folk, Oliver Spencer, YMC, Universal Works etc). Cross promote each other’s products and services (see styled ‘look’ above, promoting apparel to team with shoes). Create an online guide through your blog for which shoes to match with which suit. Can I wear tan brogues with a navy suit? Do I match my belt and shoes? Which shoes are best for a wedding? Are slip-ons causal or formal? How can I wear my favourite Grenson’s with a casual look? What are the roots behind the Penny Loafer?

Grenson should see themselves as the educator of young men who are beginning to take an interest in the more refined side of style.

Join forces with a cobbler, someone who is also an expert in their field, a craftsman. Endorse them through your social media and educate your customers on caring for the shoes. For example when does a shoe need resoling? What polish should i use? How does suede protector work? Just little things that make for a quick five minute read but that reinforce the years of experience and knowledge that Grenson have over other shoe brands.

Team up with a grooming company. Introduce young men to the art of shaving. Maybe hold an event in collaboration with a barber shop which has a likeminded clientele. It may not be the most commercial option but it won’t damage the brand.

Maybe even set up an affiliate account and team looks with shoes. You can link to the online stores for the apparel and for every purchase made on the ‘friends of Grenson’ micro-site/blog, Grenson would make a commission.

It’s great to get a lot of press coverage, even in FHM, the more people who see your brand the better. Those that buy FHM think it’s great (or they wouldn’t buy it) so to be featured isn’t a bad thing. However don’t sell yourselves out to such press coverage or succumb to the lure of huge commerciality and compromise on the values that made you successful and popular in the first place. That way, once the brand cycle has made it’s inevitable loop, you’ll still have a tribe of loyal core customers.

That means no more tits on your Facebook.

I’d been feeling optimistic about Pringle. They’re backed by huge investment from the Far East and they seemed to be making all the right moves to shake off the TK Maxx, golf jumper image.

They have some fairly interesting collaborations, projects and online content. Their image was blossoming into that of a very premium women’s knitwear brand, and it would need to with their prices! Each time an email comes in I like to have a cheeky click and genuinely find myself shocked EVERY time at how much a company can charge for a sweater.

Pringle were getting some good online coverage and had some excellent press out of their stint at London fashion week. It all seems to have ground to somewhat of a halt though (bar the CSM collabs). Perhaps the investors are getting a little peeved at losing a cool 9M pa?!?!

So your budget has been slashed but you want to keep an air of exclusivity about the brand. Will it help to become a little more unattainable and mysterious? Keep the customer interested? Maybe this explains the state I found their website in on March 23rd!

They sent out an email to customers giving them an exclusive password for the all new Pringle website. I went on, had a snoop around. It’s all very clean and nice. They’ve done well with the site design although there were a few typos (jumpers listed as twinset? Last time I checked a twinset was 2 items) which could have been ironed out before the launch.

Then I started thinking, what about those without the password? I Googled Pringle and found that the homepage I was directed to was still the new site with the password protection. There was a message telling me the website was open to the public 23rd March (see image above). That was the day I was looking. I couldn’t get in. My heart sank. Any shopper looking for the site today would be greeted with a big no-entry sign, you’re not allowed in, you’re not part of the club. I thought I’d check out just how many people may have been affected using Google Adwords- careful not to bias my result with those searching for the moreish salty snack. Turns out it’s only around 500-700 a day. No biggie. But you don’t know who that shopper is. You might have just pissed of one loyal shopper who didn’t sign up to newsletter updates or a prospective first time customer.

I can see why Pringle might have initially thought it was a great idea to block entrance to the general public (So aspirational right now!), however I can understand how the plan actually went through to fruition. Why didn’t somebody say “Stop. No. This is a terrible idea. It’s the least commercial idea I’ve ever heard. We’re losing 9M a year, we can’t afford to turn customers away. We’re not ‘Louis Vuitton’ exclusive, we don’t have the brand power to be able to piss off customers and it still be brand building!”

The fact is that you can still go into bargain stores and pick up a cheap pack of Pringle socks, boxers etc and whilst that is the case I don’t think that they can pull off these sorts of premium, anti-commercial stunts. It’s clear they still have a core money maker in their bargain goods to fund the higher level side of the brand (through licensee or otherwise) but I think if they want to make it as a luxury brand they have to pull the plug on the cheap crap and work a little harder for their customers at the higher end instead of shutting them out.

I’m pleased to say that the new Pringle site is now open for business- to everyone! Whilst it seems a little slow and the product descriptions and photography could feel a little bit more special I think the site is looking really good.