In 2009, Nicolas Mermoud and Jean-Luc Diard founded HOKA in Annecy, France as a running shoe for hardcore marathoners. In 2013, HOKA was acquired by publicly traded Deckers Brands, which had spent the past decade running its flagship asset, lifestyle brand UGG.
When Deckers bought HOKA, the brand had just over $2M in sales. But, as HOKA gained popularity with marathoners, more casual runners began to see them in the wild and opted to buy the shoes. The brand capitalized on its wider appeal by adding shoes for trail running, hiking, weightlifting, and walking.
By 2019, HOKA sales topped $220M. That’s correct. From $2M to $220M in 6 years.
In May 2020, the leadership team at Deckers outlined an ambitious sales goal for the booming HOKA brand, targeting $1B in annual revenue for the brand in the coming years, which it achieved in 2022!
HOKA’s growth reflects a deliberate multi-channel sales strategy — selling its products direct-to-consumer online, as well as via curated specialty retailers like Brooklyn Running Shoe. Moreover, HOKA touts high-performance, colorful sneakers with a chunky and maximalist aesthetic that also appeals to a fashion crowd.
Although today HOKA’s wholesale partners include Running Warehouse, Fleet Feet, and REI, its CEO said recently that the brand will continue its focus on driving as much business as it can through DTC because for all the right reasons: “margin, consumer data, lifetime value.”
The company has a goal of being 50% DTC across the entire portfolio for the fiscal year 2023!
Since its entry into the footwear market in 2010, On has been moving at its own pace, rarely bothered by what other brands were doing. A decade into this marathon, running remains at the heart of On’s business: about 40% of its revenues come from consumers buying dedicated running gear.
Since the early days, On’s initial focus has been on finding retailers that effectively reach its target audience. Today, its shoes are available in 8,000 retailers in 55 countries worldwide.
Now, On is expanding its product assortment and distribution channels.
This means doubling down on its Nordstrom shop-in-shops, while also extending its partnerships with REI, JD Sports, and Foot Locker. Freshly inked DICK’S Sporting Goods also became a distribution partner in 2022.
In addition, On wants to make apparel its next frontier, including performance running, outdoor, and lifestyle categories.
Using the strength of its brand, On is opening more of its own stores in key cities, including Tokyo, Zurich, New York, and Los Angeles to better connect with its customers, and also showcase its nascent apparel offerings.
The key to On's success has been the unique feel of its sole, and its near-flawless execution as a running shoe company. As the brand pulls the growth levers to become a lifestyle company, will the momentum continue?