Gear Talk, Wilson's Kristi Boggs
Adjoined to Louis Armstrong Stadium, near the east gate of the U.S.T.A. National Tennis Center, is the Wilson retail store. There I met Kristi Boggs, Wilson’s Business Manager for Footwear and Apparel. We spoke about the Rush Pro—a new shoe for 2013 that’s being debuted at the U.S. Open—as well as Wilson’s changing marketing and product strategies in footwear and apparel.
Justin diFeliciantonio: Walking around the store, I saw a demo for a new Wilson shoe. What’s coming down the pipe?
Kristi Boggs: Our entire line has been re-invented, and right now we’re trying to build excitement about our new shoe, the Rush Pro, which will be sold at retail by the end of January 2013. The Rush Pro is a very low-riding shoe, which is new for Wilson. (There’s a differential from the forefoot to the heel that’s about six millimeters.) Two of its main focuses are stability and forefoot support.
JD: What’s the shoe’s central technology?
KB: The Rush Pro has what we’re calling 3DFS technology. As opposed to an over-molded T.P.U. wrap in the forefoot, the Rush Pro features an injected T.P.U., which actually has its own shape separate from the rest of the shoe, increasing its stability.
JD: So the lower you are, the more stable the shoe?
KB: Definitely. Imagine the difference between walking in heels versus a running shoe.
JD: But you can have a shoe that’s more stable, but not as shock absorbent, correct?
KB: True, if the priority of the customer is to have cushion. Though keep in mind that cushioning does not necessarily equate with comfort. Comfort has a lot to do with fit. A pair of heels can feel comfortable, but not have any cushioning.
JD: From a business and marketing perspective, what is Wilson trying to do with products like the Rush Pro? It looks to be a very aggressive shoe.
KB: We’re going after a new demographic with our products. It’s no secret that, in years past, we haven’t necessarily been marketing toward the younger generation of players. So we’ve made a conscious effort and a product effort to redirect who are core consumers are. For example, the color palette [for the Rush Pro] is also much more aggressive, which speaks to a more youthful market. We do have a white one, but also a bright lime and black/orange colorways.
JD: I’ve noticed that, in recent years, there’s been an uptick in tour players wearing Wilson footwear and clothing. Is that also part of marketing toward a younger demographic, signing more tour players?
KB: Definitely. It helps give us validity with consumers as well as our retail affiliates. It certainly gives the brand more authenticity, when you can talk about Grand Slams in conjunction with the product. And if touring pros perform well in the product, it shows that it’s built for high-level competition.
JD: Who's currently wearing Wilson on tour?
KB: On the men’s side, players wearing Wilson head-to-toe include Feliciano Lopez, Jarko Nieminen, and Philipp Kohlschreiber—who had a great Wimbledon this past year, and beat John Isner this past night—as well as Horia Tecau. On the women’s side, we’ve also signed Melanie Oudin, Mandy Minella, and Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.
JD: I’ve heard the word “aspirational” used before in explaining the psychology behind certain purchases. Is this a factor in customers’ choices here at the U.S. Open?
KB: Yes, it can be. A lot of players want an aspirational component to their purchase. It’s, “Hey, if I wear this, will I look like so-and-so?” I would say that, from a female standpoint, it’s a lot about fit, color, style. Sometimes the woman isn’t so much into the brand of it. But we’ve actually sold quite of few of [Roger] Federer’s Pro Staff 90. We do say, “Are you sure you don’t want to look at the 95 or the 100?” Not many people can play with that racquet. But again, it goes back to, either people want a keepsake, or they want something that’s extremely aspirational. It’s a piece of motivation.
To read all of Justin diFeliciantonio's reports from the 2012 U.S. Open, click here.