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Q&A BY GREG

DUTTER

ROCKING AND ROLLING S t e v e G u n n , C E O o f B l u n d s t o n e , o n t h e 1 5 0 - y e a r - o l d b r a n d ’s r e c o r d - s e t t i n g s a l e s streak and why much greater growth is on the horizon.

THERE ARE LATE bloomers and then there’s Blundstone. How many brands can say they’ve experienced their most successful years more than 140 years into their lifespan? How many can say they’ve never looked better than at the ripe old age of 150? How many can say that their best years still lie ahead of them? Blundstone can. The company is in the midst of what is likely the eighth consecutive year of record sales. Blundstone is super-hot, loved by everyone from Brooklyn hipsters to Hollywood celebrities to twentysomething women in Israel to longtime Aussies and Kiwis to rabid Canadian fans and markets the company is branching into for the first time. Its iconic Chelsea silhouette—the Blundstone 500, introduced 52 years ago—is embraced for its comfort, durability and versatility attributes. Blunnies, as they are affectionately called, are at the forefront of utilitarian footwear fashion, a macro movement that continues to gain popularity in an increasingly casually attired world. But why Blundstone? Why is that arguably nondescript, brown boot leading the charge? Why did it get hot seven years ago and why has it gotten hotter with each passing year? It’s not sexy. It’s just a work boot, really. But therein lies the key to its success: Blunnies “work” on many levels for men and women and, as proof, CEO Steve Gunn, who has been at the helm for 25 years, says once a customer, likely always a customer. Word of the boots and the brand gets passed along and, in the digital age, Gunn says it’s gone viral—and that has “helped our brand immensely.” In addition to internet-fueled word-of-mouth, Gunn points to a major shift, beginning in 2007, when Blundstone began changing its supply chain. “We started manufacturing leather footwear away from Australia and that meant we could be more responsive, trade in U.S. dollars and be closer to the market,” he says. “People became more confident that we could grow the brand.” Along the way, Gunn says Blundstone broadened its product range to target more potential customers, notably women who’ve come to the brand in droves organically. On top of that, the company got its backroom in gear to

position itself as a global brand. “We got a lot of things fixed and we’ve been moving forward steadily since then,” he says, citing breakouts in Israel and then Canada as taking the business to another level. “That opened our eyes and gave us an enormous amount of confidence to keep pushing the brand forward.” Indeed, Blundstone is running full speed ahead with its newfound “it” boot

10 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2020

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