February 7, 2019 Repairs at the Elite Level
From the Swedish Alpine National Team to conscious consumers – more and more people are discovering the advantages of Kavat’s repair service.
Over the last few years, repair has gained increasing attention within the outdoor industry. But in certain segments this is nothing new. In footwear – particularly shoes and boots made of leather – this service has always been offered. Not just by brands, but also by the global shoemaker trade, which has passed the craft on for centuries.
The Swedish footwear brand Kavat was founded in 1945 in what was then the heart of Sweden’s shoe manufacturing, the small city of Kumla. Calle Karlsson, the company’s quality and environment manager, is the grandson of the founder Ragnar Karlsson and “grew up in the factory,” as he says.
“We have always taken in worn-out shoes from our customers and repaired them. In the 1970s, the company stood at a crossroad: Either we had to focus on quality shoes – which can be repaired – or begin competing with low prices,” shares Karlsson.
Fortunately, Kavat chose the first option.
For a long time, however, repairs were offered on an informal basis. But two years ago Kavat, one of the industry’s pioneers in sustainability, wanted to see if the service could be scaled up as a way to make the business more circular. The company has its own shoemaker in Kumla, but also many knowledgeable shoemakers in its own factory in Bosnia.
A pilot project began to take form: to offer a service package at a fixed price in their domestic market. For 699 Swedish kronor (approx. 70 Euro), the customer could have a total restoration of their worn-out Kavat shoes, including new inner and outer soles, repaired seems, replaced leather details, washing, polishing, impregnating and otherwise as required. It is no exaggeration to say that their timing was good.
“The first year we received 50 pairs of shoes. The response from our customers has been incredible. During 2019 we anticipate 500 pairs.”
For now, the service is offered only within the Swedish market, but the next step is to look at possibilities to also offer it in Kavat’s other major markets.
“We’re looking into environmental impacts with regards to transport. Working with local actors would be a good alternative,” says Calle Karlsson.
Swedish ski elite choose repairs
Kavat initiated another pilot project in parallel. The company is the Swedish Alpine National Team’s official shoe sponsor. The norm within this type of sponsorship is that each year the athletes are provided with the latest products. Kavat wanted to try another path. The company’s marketing manager Anders Blomster explains:
“We make shoes that are meant to last for years – giving away new shoes every year just didn’t match with our values. We began discussing with officials from the ski association if we could offer service and repairs instead as a part of the sponsorship.”
Again, the timing here was also good. The Swedish Alpine National Team had just elevated sustainability and climate mitigation to two of its primary focus areas.
“Kavat’s environmental profile is one of the reasons why we want to partner with them. When we began discussing their repair service, if felt like a natural choice,” says Kalle Olsson Bexell, the national team’s marketing and communications manager, and adds:
“In fact, not just from an environmental perspective. At first thought, perhaps the skiers wouldn’t see the advantages of not receiving new shoes each year. But upon closer consideration, leather shoes are of course more comfortable and beautiful once they’ve been broken in.”
And for elite skiers who are used to having their skis cared for and waxed with virtually scientific precision, it’s not a great leap to also take good care of the shoes.
“We also hope that through this project, we can inspire others to choose quality products that can be given a new life, instead of throwing away shoes as soon as they get worn out,” says Olsson Bexell.