Reebok was $13 million in revenue in the eighties at a time when Nike’s ad budget was around $60 million. Angel realized he couldn’t get customers into stores buying ads or competing with Nike.
However, Nike’s advertising would draw people into running stores, where they would see Reebok shoes.
Angel and Reebok focused on relationships with sales people on the floor. As a former running storeowner himself, he knew that good salesmen bring out three shoes at a time.
The first is the one the customer asks for, he said. The second one is the style they have too many have or want to get rid of. The third is the one they personally love to sell.
“I wanted my team to be one of the first three boxes, preferably not the second.”
As for other thoughts about competing with Nike, Angel said, “You never want to take Nike head on. You have to get good at doing things they don’t do well that leverages your strength against them. It’s a jui jitsu thing.
“You have to beat them on the periphery and distract them. They hate to be beaten at anything. They are competitive to the point of dysfunction.”
Prior to joining Deckers, Angel's wife, Frankie, had UGG slippers she wouldn’t take off. When they wore out, he tried to replace them, but they were sold out so he bought her a similar style by a different brand. They were not UGGs though. His wife wouldn’t wear the slippers.
At the time, Angel was at Keen, which he helped found. Keen was launched as a direct competitor of Teva because they thought Deckers-owned Teva was underperforming.
When Deckers founder Bob Otto offered Angel the CEO job at Deckers, Angel thought UGG might be asleep just like Teva was asleep.
“Visually, UGG looks like nothing else. Tactilely, they feel like nothing else. Intellectually, you go right back to loving them. I thought UGG could be one of biggest brands in world when I interviewed with their board.”
When Angel joined Deckers, UGG did about $150 million in sales. In 2011, UGG reported $1.2 billion in sales.
See Page 3 for how Angel balances keeping brand integrity with the pressures of managing a publicly-traded company