Roark CEO on Plans for New Performance Line
Roark has launched a new performance apparel line called Run Amok aimed at the active adventure enthusiast.
We asked CEO Ryan Hitzel some questions about the new project, including wholesale distribution plans and how the line will stand out in a competitive category.
Why did Roark see an opportunity in the activewear category?
Roark Founder and CEO Ryan Hitzel: Honestly, I was on a run in Scotland in the Outer Hebrides and realized how connected I was to the land, the people, the smell, the climate and frankly, myself.
Running, and more specifically trail running is the best way to see the world. You experience every inch of it. My gear worked well – there’s no shortage of performance in the marketplace – but it didn’t speak to me or my beliefs. I think I said it out loud, “Why can’t Roark do this? We can be disruptive, I want 5-inch running shorts that listen to the same records I do!” Run Amok was born.
How is Roark’s offering different than what’s in the market?
Ryan Hitzel: Roark is focused on building products that value performance as much as they do self-expression, all through the lens of adventurism. They speak to a younger profile that has refined taste and product expectations. They also dig freedom and a little chaos.
We wanted to pair tech fabrics like Polartec and DriRelease with inspiration from Roark’s travels and do it in a sophisticated way that our consumer values.
How many pieces are in the collection?
Ryan Hitzel: Trail Running is the leading edge of the spear, but the collection stretches through cross training all the way to activewear. Run Amok has three tiers, the apex is geared for the avid trail runner with 5-inch shorts and tops built with two types of Polartec fabric.
The middle tier has a compression brief lined 7-inch short for a runner who likes more support or cross trains, and tops made with buttery DriRelease that can be put to the test or worn every day.
Our third tier is an everyday activewear short we geared for the occasional run, workout or cruise to the coffee shop. They all draw inspiration from our seasonal trips just as Roark’s main line does. Season 1 2021 is a preview into our journey to Morocco but has its own creative direction suited for Run Amok. There is just shy of 20 SKUs.
Is this something your retail accounts will be carrying?
Ryan Hitzel: Interest has been pretty insane so far! It’s a category that has obviously taken off in the past few years that is still yearning for newness. Retailers have been excited to see a fresh perspective. Season 1 has been offered to select accounts in run specialty and to existing retailers that sell running shoes.
Tier two and three product has been offered to existing stores that will devote space to tell the collection’s story. You’ll be able to find it at stores like Seed People’s Market, Surfside Sports and Farias Surf & Sport.
For us as a lifestyle brand, it’s about giving existing action sports and outdoor stores the opportunity to merchandise Roark into another growing category. And it’s a chance for run specialty to add a differentiated voice.
How is business overall?
Ryan Hitzel: It’s been a wild year to be sure, but Roark’s business has been strong as a whole. We made some hard decisions with inventory back in March with the intention of avoiding risk and a glut of product in Q4. We may have been too aggressive with our cuts based on the actual demand that we’ve seen from the consumer, but we’ve managed to gut out great growth this year and have positioned ourselves to be the heathiest we’ve ever been going into 2021.
Consumers have demonstrated in a COVID environment that they desire product that fits a healthy lifestyle and that price isn’t a barrier as long as the product is strong. It’s really seems that cheap product without purpose or value is dead.
Although it’s an extremely challenging time for the world, it’s a great opportunity for brands to actually add to people’s lives in positive ways, not just take their money.