Pioneering shoe maker explains why diversifying into other markets is not in its interests

Lake: ‘We’ll only ever make cycling shoes’

Need a shoe label to fill the shelves and satisfy the growing number of customers clipping in? Mark Sutton talks to Lake owner Christian van Asten and Moore Large’s Martin Pounder about how the firm has gone about developing its shoe catalogue…

The Lake catalogue is quite diverse now, with boots, shoes and tri designs – what’s proving popular with consumers?
To be honest the UK is seeing growth in all areas. The recent technological developments and unique features provide something in the range for everyone. Globally, high-end road shoes and winter specific products have proved most popular. The custom programme (where individuals can pick their own CX401 colour combinations) is also developing.

Lake is to introduce a cyclocross specific shoe – what’s different?
The MX331CX is a lightweight carbon soled shoe aimed at the cyclocross rider, which is also perfect for MTB. The main difference is in the customisation of the lug pattern and the ability to insert aggressive spikes that offer greater amount of traction in slippery, muddy or hard-packed conditions. As each event course has different conditions, you have some places where it is wet and muddy, others the ground is frozen solid, the rider can adjust the tread for the event.

BOA lacing is widely used throughout the range – why has this become important to Lake’s high-end catalogue?
It offers a great mechanical and clean closure that closely mimics Laces. Laces are the superior closure system, however they often get in the way, come untied or make it difficult to reduce the bulk to stream line a shoe. BOA does a great job to emulate Laces. Boa equalises the pressure on your forefoot much better than buckles or straps which were traditionally used for higher-end shoes. With BOA and the ‘Powerzone’ system you can create an optimum and equal closure of the shoe.

What developments in technology, both inside and outside of the shoes, have been made in the past 12 months?
We are still pushing forward with the use of more “technical” natural materials that are traditionally viewed as antiquated. Natural leathers have come a long way over the century and one of the key difference between Lake and all other brands is our utilisation of this. Using the materials natural properties that are not harmful to the user or the environment is an important part of how we design and develop. These natural materials provide optimum comfort and fit.

New developments you will see on the 2014 range include Kangaroo leather lining, the MX33CX – the world’s first cyclocross shoe (Lake actually produced the first MTB shoe back in the 1980s) and the MX145 and CX145, which have a waterproof membrane and a waxed canvas upper. Moving forward mouldable soles and customisation of uppers is still important.

Lake offers a custom shoe build service via its website – is this something you can offer dealers?
The website is there for people to be able to design and visualise their desired CX401, but to place an order customers need to visit a selected elite Lake dealer offering the service. With the launch of the 2014 range Moore Large will be looking to expand their Lake elite dealership programme.

How are the shoes tested in/out of house and with what pro teams?
Besides the test riding that we do with what we call professional users (people who have used several different types of shoe and can communicate very clearly what they feel and express what needs to be improved), we have our own cycling shoe specific testing lab that we use to test all the materials for durability and performance.

We have an extensive list of individuals and teams in the US (Hincapie development team for example) and the MX331CX has been developed based on feedback from some individuals in the US and of course the UK’s Torq team. Shoes are also being tested by some Chinese riders as they have different foot shape compared to Europe/US.

In a lot of countries we have local teams who give a lot of feedback for development.

Why choose Lake in what is a fairly saturated shoe market?
There are not many brands left in the cycling shoe business who’s core focus is making shoes. We are shoe makers and specifically cycling shoes. Lake is not a spin off of other cycling commodities nor did it jump into cycling business or the cycling shoe category to expand a share. The original driving force comes from 1982 with the emergence of new technologies (injection nylon soles) in footwear and cycling. The company was founded to marry these two disciplines at a time when there were only a few European brands making shoes in a classic way using leather soles. Lake has brought to the market, for over 30 years, new innovations, the credibility of our product, dedication to the sport and focus on the user experience – those are the major differentiators.

How can dealers take stock and what’s the minimum buy in?
There are several levels of Lake Stockists and they start with a minimum purchase of 15 pieces. The new 2014 range will be available from end of September and the Moore Large field sales team are out pre-selling now.

The MXZ302 winter boot, the MX145 and CX145 waterproof boot and the MX331CX cyclo-cross shoe will be available from the end of August.

Any point of sale display material or marketing support in place for the year ahead for dealers?
Moore Large offer dealers Lake shoe shelves for slat wall and various other options depending on the individual store. Dealers who buy into the mouldable carbon soled shoes also receive a Lake branded oven for moulding customer’s shoes.

The media already have a huge interest in the Lake brand, which helps with brand awareness. The UK invests heavily in sponsorship of riders of all disciplines on both a national and regional level, while attending lots of events to try and connect directly with the consumers.

Anything exciting in the pipeline?
Look out for invisible shoes, they weigh nothing and cannot be seen with the naked eye!

Moore large: 01332 274200

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