Inside ECCO

Published:

The land of ECCO’s creation, Scandinavia, is famed for its innovation, style, simplicity and function. Less is certainly more, with all excesses taken away creating the perfect product. These principles have been followed by ECCO since it made its first shoe just over 50 years ago.

To mark this event, ECCO opened its doors to select media at its HQ in Tonder, Denmark, for the first time. What can be found inside in just a microcosm of the values the business that now turns over 1 billion a year.

ECCO found golf quite late, relatively speaking. It wasn’t until 1994 when now CEO Deiter, came up with the idea to build a golf shoe.

“It was a Sunday morning in 1994, my father-in-law got a package from a Japanese business partner,” Deiter told TG in a rare interview. “We started to play and discovered that golf shoes then were not comfortable for playing golf. Our walking shoes were comfortable, we wanted to put that feeling into playing golf. I made one prototype pair learning by doing as I went along and got a good response from friends. I never felt there was competition in terms of comfort and style. Golf shoes were ugly. But not anymore.”

ECCO’s first golf shoe was made in 1996 and the model didn’t have a name. While getting into the golf shoe business may have been slow, getting the name out to golfers across the world was quite the opposite. ECCO will forever be known for pioneering the spikeless golf shoe revolution. Before the 2010 Masters, golf accounted for a tiny proportion of its business, with smart and fashion shoes selling like hotcakes across Europe and America. But in April that year everything changed.

Fred Couples was first seen wearing ECCO golf shoes, the original Golf Street Premier, at the 2010 Mitsibishi Electric Championship in January that year, finishing 2nd. He won in his next three Champions Tour starts and led after the first round of the Masters. People immedietly began to ask about his unusual footwear. He didn’t win, he eventually finished tied for sixth, but by Monday, ‘ECCO Golf’ was the 11th most Googled phrase in the world.

“Everything changed at the Masters,” Michael Waack told TG. “My boss phoned me at 10.30pm on the Sunday and we knew everything had changed from now on. Nothing in ECCO golf was the same. The demand was unbelievable. We didn’t produce many Street shoes at the time because our forecast based on initial feedback was so low. We believed we could sell more, so we made 40,000 more which is always a risk. That Monday morning between 9-10am, we had 56 phone calls from our Danish customers saying they wanted a pair of street shoes. And we’ve been constantly sold out for 3 years.”

ECCO has five factories across the world and still struggles to keep up. Street shoes are now commonplace on Tour and at your local course from a variety of brands with many opting for the comfort and stability they provide as well as the ability to wear them off the course. “Since then, brands like Footjoy and adidas have brought out similar shoes, they have huge marketing budgets. But in a way this is good for us, it boosted the category even more and was a big business pusher for us.”

But from May 2010 onwards, ECCO knew it needed a new idea to evolve further. It was Deiter who came up with the idea of the Biom in 2011, then the Biom hybrid in 2012, which with it’s TPU outsole, increased ECCO’s turnover by 350 per cent.

One cannot doubt the quality you get when you invest in a pair of ECCO shoes. Each pair is touched by 210 pairs of hands. It produces leather from its own tanneries – in fact, it controls the entire process from cow to shoe. Once created, each shoe undergoes 13 categories of assessment, including shock absorption, thermal insulation, slip resistance, weight, sole durability and drying time.

And despite all this consideration, ECCO still manage to shift more than 2000 pairs an hour. It has over 1200 stores and is growing fast, with 83.7 per cent of sales being hybrid golf shoes. Not only that, is has brand ambassadors like Graeme McDowell and Couples to spread the word.

See ECCO's new Street EVO One shoe here.