Technology in the service of tradition. Beth Cross has succeeded in a unique combination that was initially looked at with a blind eye. But thanks to a few contacts with Reebok, she has shown that a certain kind of sports boot is possible. A leather boot that can be adapted to the new millennium without upsetting the firm habits of traditional fans. Ariat, Cross’ brand, grew by 25% with the pandemic, and expanded its production to include clothing.
An opportunity born from a flop
The story of Ariat began almost 30 years ago. Cross had just graduated with a degree in economics, and one of the first consulting jobs she took on was about the possibility of Reebok entering new markets. It was the early 1990s and, as forbes.com reports, the US giant was looking for niche sports where athletes still wore low-tech shoes. Cross led Reebok into the world of the sports boot. A washout. However, then-executive vice-president Angel Martinez saw the potential of Cross’s idea and backed it. Thus Ariat was born. The basic idea is to mix the technology developed by Reebok in the field of footwear to renew and evolve a classic shoe like the biker and farmer boot.
Technology at the service of tradition
At the time of launch, Ariat products were not well received. The idea of change didn’t seem to appeal to the riding world. “It was difficult to sell, because of the new rubber bottom we were offering, Cross tells forbes.com. At the time, the only boots with rubber bottoms were cheap children’s boots”. But then there was the look, so different from the classic one. So, Cross revised her designs, keeping the bar firmly set on the themes of stability, cushioning and durability – what she knew her customers needed – and dressed them up with leather uppers. To this, she added a small carbon fibre bar in the forefoot, to lighten the foot while riding, and new cushioning.
After 30 years
“We took all that technology and put it into the shoe,” says Beth Cross to explain Ariat’s success. In recent years, the brand has grown 25% at a time. In the meantime, it has also started producing children’s boots. After the lockdown, people wanted to be outdoors a lot more, and so Ariat’s business grew again. And it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. A demand that will be accompanied by more supply. The brand is launching new footwear and clothing models.