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Sanuk adds styles as rapid growth continues

John Vance, president of
John Vance, president of Sanuk, at company headquarters in Irvine
By Tiffany Montgomery
January 02, 2008 6:25 AM

I stopped by the Sanuk offices over the holidays and met with president John Vance. John moved into the president's job about five months ago after working as vice president of sales for about four years. Sanuk is part of C&C Traders, which has the license to Sanuk and used to have the license to Rusty.


Sanuk is growing like mad. Last year, the company experienced triple digit growth. Even the sandal business grew in the double digits in a contracting sandal market.


Sanuk hybridsNew hybrid styles of the Sidewalk Surfer
for fall that have the look of a skate shoe
but the flexibility of a sandal. They are
designed to appeal to a younger consumer.

The big star, of course, is Sanuk's Sidewalk Surfer, introduced in April 2006 and created by Sanuk founder and Creative Director Jeff Kelley. The shoe has a comfortable sandal bottom and an enclosed top and has been a run away hit. The hardest part has been keeping up with demand, Vance said.


"It went right through the roof," he said. "The first year and a half we were just trying to keep up with demand."


The Sidewalk Surfer is carried in a wide range of stores, from Barneys New York and Fred Segal, to REI and surf shops.


With the Sidewalk Surfer's - and Sanuk's - success, two things have happened. Other companies have copied the style, which is protected by patent, so many warning letters have been written. And, lots of footwear and surf companies have come knocking, looking to buy Sanuk.


"It's flattering, but we're very happy with the ways things are going," Vance said. "We're one of the last independently held companies in the industry. We're not part of a large conglomerate. We can do what we want in terms of creativity. It's a huge asset."


To keep up with growth, Sanuk has added three new hires in the last three months, bringing the employee count to nine. John Gothard, previously with Spy Optics, was recently named VP of sales. C & C also has a staff to handle all the back end operations.


For fall 2008, Sanuk is branching out again with its hybrid series, pictured above. It has the look of a skateshoe with the flexibility of a sandal.


Sanuk outdoors

The brand is also introducing a cold weather shoe collection, including the "Dawn Patrol," third from left, with a warm fleece lining and a more aggressive sole that can handle snow.


Who knows what's next. In Sanuk's offices, there's an idea wall, where the staff puts of sketches of possible new styles. One drawing shows a shoe made out of boardshort material.


More on: growth, Sanuk, John Vance

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