In just over a decade, On has grown from a little-known Swiss footwear start-up, supported by a small but passionate community of runners and outdoor enthusiasts, to a global high-end sportswear brand. range that caught the attention of the fashion industry.
But the journey from a prototype cobbled together in a backyard in Switzerland to a NYSE-listed retail prodigy hasn’t always been easy.
Undeterred by their lack of expertise in the footwear industry, On’s three founders – Olivier Bernhard, Caspar Coppetti and David Allemann – knew in 2010 what they had to do to win. “We really had no idea how to make shoes, but we knew the technology we had developed was unique,” said Coppetti, now executive director of On.
To realize their ambitions, the founders had to build a supply chain that would help them scale; prioritize where to develop the brand geographically; develop a disciplined approach to distribution and marketing with a focus on specialty retail; and gain credibility for the brand’s product in a crowded niche market. These forces would need to merge if On had any chance of competing with the big incumbents like Nike and Adidas, as well as smaller players like New Balance, Asics, and Saucony.
On’s reputation for forging its distinctive path to growth has helped differentiate it. While other start-ups over the past decade have focused primarily on being direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands, One first leaned into specialty wholesale. , which allowed him to create a niche and retain his customers, before entering into larger wholesale agreements and the gradual introduction of DTC. It’s also secured its place at the top of the global activewear industry – worth an estimated $384 billion in 2021, according to McKinsey & Company – by avoiding discounts as part of a disciplined strategy to that supply never exceeds demand.
The business of fashion interviews On’s founders, management team and product designers at the company’s sleek new 16-story headquarters in Zurich to explore its growth strategies.
This case study explains how start-ups can become billion-dollar companies through a combination of continuous innovation, adaptability and opportunism in a fiercely competitive market, and an ability to learn quickly from their mistakes without ever losing sight of the very essence of their business. Mark.
The report covers four key elements of On’s growth strategy:
1. Think big and scale fast
What challenges We had to overcome to build the brand on a global scale.
2. Relations with specialist retailers
The founders of Why On focused on specialty retailers to support their distribution and marketing, prioritizing wholesale rather than direct consumer.
3. The Federer Effect
How tennis superstar Roger Federer paved the way for new products and partnerships.
4. Continuous innovation
How On engages its community to maintain a steady pace of product innovation.
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