CRAFT eyes to embark markets in China and other parts of Asia in the next five years

When it comes to sports shoes, people generally prioritize functionality over appearance, but not anymore. Swedish-brand CRAFT tells you that functionality doesn’t equal boring.

“Someone might be running serious distances, some serious trails, but they can still express themselves with an attractive design in the shoe,” said David Thomson, CEO & Co-Founder of Aspire Brands, distributor of CRAFT in Asia.

Positioning as a premium authentic sports performance brand, the 46-year-old European apparel and footwear brand was first brought to Asia in 2020. Soon after its arrival, the brand faced the headwind brought by Covid. Now that the pandemic has subsided, CRAFT’s Fredrik Johansson, Head of International Business, along with David Thomson, recently visited Hong Kong for the first time to observe the retail landscape of the city.

“Here we’re working with a lot of mono-brand sources and flagship stores as well as multi-brand retail. In Sweden, it’s more of a multi-brand environment. It’s completely something else. You have another way to express the brand and show the brand to its full potential, which is amazing to see,” said Thomson.

The Swedish brand is now geared up to accelerate its pace, ready to penetrate the China market, which is expected to be a major revenue growth engine.

“Today Asia contributes a very small part of revenue. This will change rapidly. China should contribute at least 25-30% in the future,” said Johansson, adding that some “fairly aggressive big business plans” are in the pipeline.

Thomson added, CRAFT plans to open several flagship stores in the region. The first two, expected to open in April 2023, will be located in Bangkok and Taiwan.

The brand is now present in 10 markets in Asia and has recently tapped into the Middle East. Premium brand distributor, Sure Step Asia, has been appointed in Hong Kong to manage the rollout of CRAFT in this market. The response has been overwhelming here so far.

In terms of product assortment in Asia, CRAFT currently focuses on trail and road running footwear plus apparel. Going forward, the brand is eager to open up further into their other categories.

“We will continue to develop our authenticity in running as well as our premium position in training and cycling. The product pipeline in all three of these categories is very exciting. In footwear, for example, we have some exciting new ranges to bring to market as well as build-up our overall product hierarchy to ensure we have products for the spectrum of consumers,” said Thomson. The brand will also continue to stay abreast of the trends and needs of the market while connecting to a wider consumer base by engaging local and global professional athletes to help with brand messaging.

The brand also must tackle the cultural and weather differences in Asia while developing its products.

“First of all, we have the weather. If you look at the winter season in Europe, Sweden, Scandinavia, there’s winter, real winter, minus 20 or 30 degrees Celsius. We need to adapt the collection in the future because expansion in this region is important for us. When it comes to styles, we see products like padded bras, something super important for the Asian consumer but maybe not so important for other markets. So that’s also a challenge,” said Johansson.

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