ECCO is the kind of company that will challenge everything you think you know about R&D.
Imagine, if you can, a world where the likes of Titleist, COBRA, PING, TaylorMade and Callaway send their top R&D wizards on a group retreat and actually collaborate on ways to help the consumer. Can you imagine it?
I can’t, either. But that’s exactly what ECCO does in the leather industry.
ECCO is entering its 60th year as a company and still focuses on the same two goals: innovation and performance.
In the early years, ECCO founder Karl Toosbuy didn’t want to make a standard golf shoe. He wanted to push the boundaries of technology and innovation which still runs in ECCO’s DNA.
ECCO Golf made steady progress in the early stages but the boundary-pushing finally paid dividends at the 2010 Masters. Fred Couples had that amazing finish wearing ECCO Golf’s memorable orange-sole, brown-upper hybrid shoe. According to ECCO, this was the birth of the spikeless shoe.
Now we see the likes of Thomas Bjorn, Caroline Masson, Henrik Stenson, Erik Van Rooyen, Minjee Lee and Lydia Ko all use ECCO Golf to dial in their games. Before you ask: Yes, we have tested ECCO Golf shoes and we have seen a good uptick in performance as they are now one of the top performers in the golf shoe category. For example, their BIOM H4 shoe scored a 91.5 in a star-laden field and ranked No. 1 in the “elements” category.
The interesting part about ECCO Golf, is that it only makes up around 10% of the companies revenue.
What Other Companies Don’t Have “Hot-Shop”?
Recently, I had the chance to tour of ECCO’s new facility located in New York City. It wasn’t anything like I was expecting. I was waiting for another pitch that I’ve heard from multiple companies before. Instead, I was shown what they do. It was mind blowing.
When listening and seeing them explain ECCO DNA, they slyly brushed off this “Hot-Shop” event they put on. Hot-Shops are aimed at uniting designers, product managers, marketers and leather technicians with one common goal: to help the consumer—and to help make cool s**t.
For four days each year, these Hot-Shops encourage participants to envision new directions in leather. They’ll work in integrated teams to create and sample new leathers. Every idea that comes out of these workshops has one raison d’etre: ECCO’s main MO on performance and innovation. This is where some of the best ideas have come from and you might be wearing one today. One main brand, which rhymes with “bikey”, attends these events and their brand is always pushing the boundaries of style. Again, these high-profile attendees are competitors who willingly attend this event organized by ECCO.
As I mentioned, you would never see the big boys of golf club design come together. Yet, we have ECCO doing just that to help the consumer get the best product available no matter what label it may be.
ECCO has the luxury of owning tanneries which allows them to produce leathers that are specifically suited for ECCO Golf shoes. This has been true for more than 60 years, dating back to Karl Toosbuy opening their first tannery in Denmark in 1963.
Now ECCO seems to have an unlimited amount of leather options which can be incorporated into their shoes, handbags, backpacks, camera bags, belts … the list goes on. The leathers range from soft to firm, from solid colors to multi-colored, to patterns that reveal themselves when heat is applied.
All of ECCO’s leather seeks to improve the tanning industry by emphasizing the environment. One example is what ECCO calls DriTan and sustainability. This process reduces the amount of water and chemicals needed in the tanning process. Many of the ECCO leathers are made from DriTan and are indistinguishable from traditionally tanned leathers.
ECCO Golf Shoes
Golf footwear accounts for just 10 percent of ECCO’s revenue. The rest comes from ECCO leather, everyday shoes and accessories. That should give you some idea of just how big ECCO is worldwide.
ECCO golf shoes have been making advances in MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted shoe tests in recent years. But in the early years, ECCO only focused on spiked shoes. Spikeless—what ECCO calls “hybrid”—shoes didn’t exist in 1996. It wasn’t until 2010 when the sudden enormous demand for spikeless shoes hit the market. That movement, according to ECCO, was due to one man and his shoes: Fred Couples and the ECCO Golf Street shoe. I know most of you had a pair. I certainly did at the age of 20. Every golf shop in England had them front and center and struggled to keep them in stock.
In recent years, ECCO Golf has come out with the innovative BIOM H4. Originally inspired by barefoot runners, BIOM technology provides as close to a barefoot feeling as you can get. The H4 has aeration holes that allow moisture to escape while never letting H2O in, making it one of the most breathable shoes on the market. The shoe is also designed to naturally curve to your foot, allows for better push-off and maximum forward movement and provides support and comfort.
And here’s a little fun fact: ECCO is known in the industry as having the highest-quality and most durable shoelaces. Details matter.
Own The Whole Process
Companies that own the process from start to finish tend to have the best products and the tightest tolerances. Take Titleist. In golf ball production, Titleist controls everything from initial material mixing to the final stamping.
ECCO has the same process, but for golf shoes. When you have the ability to own the process and keep your employees dedicated to the company’s mission and vision, you control your own destiny and can provide your customers with high-performing products.
Even though ECCO might not be the top-selling shoe in golf, it does make some of the best golf shoes on the market.
Can it become the No. 1 shoe in golf? After my eye-opening look at how it operates, its employees and the quality and variety of leathers at their disposal, ECCO may have the potential to do just that. Time will tell.
If you have ever worn ECCO Golf shoes, let me know in the comments section.