Wayne Edy, who founded Inov-8 in 2003, is preparing to launch a new graphene-based shoe after buying back the 80 percent stake in the British company that he had sold to Descente in 2015, with the exception of the rights to the brand for Northern Asia, including Japan, South Korea and China.
The 58-year-old British entrepreneur, who previousy worked for Berghaus, has also sold his 25 percent stake in Garmont International, where he had built up its tactical division in the U.S., to the other shareholders of the Italian company, in order to concentrate completely on Inov-8.
As previously reported, the Japanese group stopped reporting specific figures for its operations in Europe and the U.S. last year, indicating that some of them had been liquidated. Edy now owns 100 percent of Inov-8’s shares and is acting as interim CEO of the company, replacing a Japanese executive who had been appointed by Descente shortly after its acquisition.
In an interview, Edy told us that the separation from Descente followed a decision made in 2019 by the Japanese company’s new management to concentrate all its operations on Northern Asia. Descente helped Inov-8 to build up a highly technical range of clothing, including a successful waterproof jacket, to complement its footwear. However, apparel represented just over 13 percent of Inov-8’s turnover last year.
Edy declined to give any specific sales figures for Inov-8, but said that the Covid-19 pandemic led it to book a sales decline of between 2 and 3 percent last year, although its digital sales jumped by 72 percent. The company’s U.S. subsidiary booked a nice increase in the second half, after restructuring the operation. Sales grew by 11 percent in Germany, and the establishment of an Inov-8 Europe subsidiary with a distribution center in the Netherlands, which will become operational next month, should help the company to smooth out the consequences of Brexit.
Total orders are up by around 18 percent, and Edy is projecting a sales increase of at least 13 percent for this year, thanks in part to the imminent launch of a new shoe for ultramarathon and trail runners. Protected by three patents and slated for a launch on March 24, the new model will be the first to incorporate graphene in the foam of the midsole under the runner’s foot for a better rebound and longer durability. It is meant to optimize cushioning while letting the foot stay in tune with the terrain.
Like the unique and original graphene-enhanced rubber sole launched by Inov-8 in 2018 for better grip and higher durability, the new G-Fly component of the shoe has been developed in cooperation with the University of Manchester, which has helped develop other applications for graphene in other sectors. Inov-8 holds a patent on the process used to blend graphene into the rubber. Graphene is described as the strongest and thinnest material on earth, with the added benefit of a high level of elasticiity.
Inov-8 went through a very uncertain period during the first lockdowns in England last spring, leading to temporary layoffs for about 20 of its employees. The business was then quickly restructured, leading to an “incredible recovery” by the end of last year, the company said. The whole team is now back in place with a high level of motivation, and the company has started to hire new people to help it to regain its momentum, Edy added.