It’s been a year since Kering sold Electric to private management with the existing CEO, Eric Crane, leading the way. Since then the brand has been moving forward as an independent brand with the focus very much on providing top-quality functional eyewear. SOURCE spoke to Crane about the brand’s position a year on from their transition to private ownership and the future of Electric as they strive to be the world’s number one active lifestyle eyewear brand.
What have been the main changes at Electric since you took over ownership?
The main change that we have been working towards is to focus the brand on its original mission, to provide progressive eyewear for the lifestyle and active markets. The largest operational change we have made is a shift to a master license/distributor model. We have begun a partnership with Arnaud Galliard and Pilot Fish to manage our existing customer base and to drive higher levels of service and growth for all of Europe.
When I got closer to the business there, I realised that our business was too small in order to provide the same levels of service to our customers and distributors that we provide in other regions of the world. By partnering with Pilot Fish, Electric will gain additional leadership and be sold alongside our peers as Pilot Fish is focused on bringing California brands to Europe.
Last time we spoke (March, 2016), you told us of how the company was going to take the good of what it had learned from Kering and use it going forward. How has this progressed a year on?
While working with Kering, Electric learned how to create detailed strategic plans and financial reporting tools that really help to drive the business. We will continue to employ those learnings as we move forward as an independent brand. Both Volcom’s and Kering’s resources and support were critical in positioning Electric where it is today. We continue to work with Todd Hymel, Joost and their team at Volcom, those relationships run strong and Volcom is still a great support for Electric.
Please could you give us an overview of your product categories. What’s gone, what’s new and where you’re placing a focus on.
Moving forward, Electric will advance its design and development activity in the eyewear space. Electric’s heritage is as an eyewear brand. Our relationships in Italy, on the manufacturing side, allows us to create world class, industry leading quality and design. We believe there is much work to do here for the brand in sunglasses, ophthalmic, and snow goggles before we make any additional investments in nurturing new categories.
We are working towards phasing out our watch line, we have discontinued helmets for the time being, and simplified our apparel offering to be focused on key items and printables. The brand logo and image is still very strong and resonates heavily with our consumers, so we are seeing rapid growth in our hats, tees and fleeces again. We are proud of that momentum and will continue to develop those items on the side. That said, we are focusing on being the world’s number one active lifestyle eyewear brand.
You’re taking the brand back to a more grass roots vibe. How are you communicating this through your marketing?
We’ve never left our grass roots vibe. We are working to become more active in the market place, just by showing up. I think that with rise of the digital age, it’s more important than ever to make physical contact with our customers. Look them in their eyes, shake their hands, kiss their cheeks, and show them the difference in our products. We care tremendously about what we make and why our products are better. We love to go out and share that passion in the market.
How are you positioning yourself to ensure you salute your boardsports roots while going after a more mainstream client?
We are not actively targeting the mainstream. We believe we have much work to do in the action sports inspired market before we try to tackle anywhere else. I think that will be one of our most competitive advantages in the market. Our largest competitors are now owned by giant eyewear conglomerates with little to no connection to our industry other than paying for huge marketing efforts and distributing through their vast networks of mainstream eyewear retail. That has definitely given them scale and revenue, but I like to think that customers still want more. They want more of a story, they want to know who is behind the products that they buy and they want to understand why a brand exists and does what it does. I want to maintain a personal transparency to the market.