By Eric Smith

As president of Deckers Brands’ performance lifestyle brands (Hoka One One, Sanuk and Teva), Wendy Yang oversees a key division for the Goleta, CA-based footwear giant.

But when asked about what’s driving success at Hoka One One—which Deckers brass called out in last quarter’s earnings call for its impressive 28.4 percent growth—Yang was quick to give credit elsewhere instead of taking it herself.

“First and foremost, our product team continues to put out world-class, innovative products that address the needs of a wide variety of users—from serious athletes to walkers and fitness enthusiasts—in a unique way,” Yang told SGB in a recent email interview. “That has always been the Hoka product philosophy and it continues to serve us well.”

Yang also attributed the phenomenal growth at Hoka One One to the team’s insistence on meeting customer demands, working with channel partners and staying focused on the brand’s marketing message, all in hopes of creating additional mind and market share.

“We have been conscious to speak to every single potential consumer by expanding the avenues through which we communicate, the stories we tell about our product, and making it clear that Hoka is a welcoming, empowering brand that should make approaching your running and fitness goals less intimidating—even fun!” she said.

Here is the rest of what Yang shared for this installment of SGB Executive about what’s happening at Hoka One One, which has found growing appeal across categories as it distances itself from competitors, and the other brands under her charge.

How is Hoka One One working to capture consumer mindshare in today’s marketplace? The mission of Hoka is to empower a world of athletes to feel like they can fly. That includes elite runners looking for the highest of high-end performance from their shoes, but also includes runners of all abilities and with a wide array of goals. It even includes non-runners, and people who run but do other fitness activities as well. When we create new product or improve existing models, we are seeking to address the needs of every consumer. By making everyone feel welcome, even empowered, to run or seek fitness in our shoes—whatever their method or goal—we anticipate we’ll be able to keep growing.

Why is run specialty the preferred channel for Hoka One One and what does it offer that other channels don’t? Run specialty has been the cornerstone of the Hoka distribution strategy from day one. With a singular focus on the end consumer, we know that run specialty is the preferred environment for core runners to shop. Beyond that, the run specialty channel is also attracting those consumers who are using running as part of their overall fitness program, as they seek the same level of high touch and expertise as core runners. The channel has served as a great proving ground for the brand, while providing validation, both early on and today. In a hyper-competitive and dynamic marketplace, our relationship with run specialty has never been more critical, and it continues to evolve today with the highest degree of customer focus and investment.

At the same time, the brand seems to be gaining traction in outdoor independent specialty (including a strong presence at OR); what is the potential for the brand in that channel? The Hoka brand was born in the mountains, with a strong connection to both trail and outdoors early on, as our original models were designed to make running downhill—on a mountainside—easier. From our founding, our products have been designed with intent and purpose, focused on creating solutions and solving problems, yet doing so with a unique point of view. While Hoka has resonated within the trail- and ultrarunning space for years, more consumers are enjoying the outdoors in a multitude of ways, and the demand for compelling hiking and trail product is on the rise. That said, our approach to the outdoor and trail space will be consistent with our run specialty strategy, with a focus and commitment to the specialty channel, as we are convinced doing so provides the best consumer experience possible.

Beyond product, how is Hoka One One differentiating on the business side? Having the support and shared resources afforded to us by being part of the Deckers Brands family has certainly helped us grow as quickly as we have, and has helped us continue to put out innovative product. But I think the biggest key to our success so far has been the way we are connecting to people. Our “Humans of Hoka” stories, in which we share the stories and myriad adversity—everything from having a jam-packed schedule to suffering major medical trauma—faced by people who have accomplished great things wearing Hoka, have resonated hugely on social media and beyond; we are also making great strides to be inclusive of as many ethnicities, body types, and so on in our marketing and social media campaigns. Having a body, and having some desire to do something with it—faster, leaner, further, anything—is something we all relate to, but for different reasons. We want to make it clear that, whatever your reason, whatever your goal, Hoka is going to help you finish what you start.

Looking at the two other brands you oversee—Teva and Sanuk—what should our readers know about what’s happening there in terms of growth expectations and brand share? The entire Performance Lifestyle Group at Deckers, which includes Hoka, Teva and Sanuk, is experiencing momentum, and it is an exciting time to be with all three brands. Teva continues to innovate and produce fresh iterations of all-terrain and sport sandals while retaining the high-functioning qualities that initially helped the brand catch on; our origins as a high-functioning sport sandal, created in the Grand Canyon and borne of the demand for something that could function in the Colorado River, are top-of-mind this year as Grand Canyon National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary. Sanuk remains a leading brand in the surf specialty channel, focused on dimensionalizing the brand beyond its core sandal and casuals assortment with boots, slippers and sneakers. The brand has seen promising results this Fall and Holiday season with its new offerings, and I’m excited to see where the team takes the brand over the coming years.

Your three brands recently joined Camber Outdoors as corporate partners. Why was this important and how are Hoka, Teva and Sanuk supporting Camber’s mission of accelerating equitable and inclusive workplaces? Hoka, Teva and Sanuk share a commitment to fostering diversity of leadership and participation in the outdoors. In the workplace, we believe a diverse team, from entry-level to executive, makes us better and that everyone, regardless of ethnicity or gender, can play a leadership roles at Deckers. We will be working with Camber to develop internal programming around this goal, and to kick off the partnership, all three brands hosted a happy hour and footwear sale at the Outdoor Retailer event in July, with all proceeds being donated to Camber Outdoors

Photo courtesy Deckers Brands

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Eric Smith is Senior Business Editor at SGB Media. Reach him at or 303-578-7008. Follow on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.[/author_info] [/author]