Sara Canali, a native of Bolzano who has been practicing football, cycling and other sports since a young age, has become the sole owner of SHER Women’s Activewear, a new brand of functional and stylish sports clothing for women. She launched last May as a joint venture with Francesca Pozzi, another Italian manager whom she had worked with many years ago at The North Face EMEA. Canali, who is 45 years old, says her goal is to develop SHER into “an online brand with global reach that challenges existing business models and redefines growth.”
Registered as an innovative start-up in the northern Italian region of South Tyrol, the project is financially supported by the local state government through a tax break and in other ways. It has already raised some interest from investors who may help the company to make new investments in innovation and digital customer experience.
The name SHER stands for Sport for Her. Like Kari Traa and some younger brands such as Klover or LaMunt, the new brand of women’s apparel for outdoor pursuits introduced by the Oberalp Group, SHER stresses style & fit while trying to solve specific problems that women tend to encounter when they wear the female version of a garment that was originally designed mainly for men.
Its first product was a revolutionary bib short with a new type of chamois for bicycle riding, made with a special anti-bacterial fabric, that is supposed to avoid the kind of infections that affect 30 percent of the women who wear traditional cycling pants. The new seat pad was the result of 250 hours and 5,970 km of testing with 25 women, athletes included. The same problem-solving philosophy is being applied to all the other 20-plus models launched by the company until now. After coming out with bike shorts, coupled with bike jerseys and windproof cycling vests, SHER launched its first line of clothing for training, followed hy other items for sports such as running and mountain hiking.
The SHER line is almost exclusively available over the internet through the website, sheractive.com, in Italian, English and German. The only exception is a space in the 300-square-meter concept store in Bolzano of LEAOS, an innovative local producer of high-end e-bikes.
Canali says that she is planning to extend the network of physical “destinations” to very few and selected locations across Europe. The SHER collection will only be offered online or offline in “stores or platforms that are investing in innovative retail experiences, that focus on understanding the female user and her true needs and challenge the status quo as we do.”
SHER uses only sustainable products, even in the packaging, which is made of textile waste. The manufacturers of its garments in Italy and Portugal work “ethically, sustainably and transparently,” says the company. They make ample use of recycled materials from obsolete inventories and landfills, yet SHER offers premium products, designed in Italy with a good look, fit and function, targeting mature women over the age of 30, including seniors. “We help women to look and feel great in their sports gear any time,” declares SHER on its website.
The prices are relatively high. To give visitors an incentive to make a purchase, SHER is testing a “Try and Use” program of returns for any orders above €120 made over the internet until Feb. 10. It has also been offering “gift cards” of between €35 and €300 that can be added to shopping cart.
Making use of social networks like Facebook to attract its customers, SHER recruits inspiring women from all over the world who align with the brand’s vision to share great stories from their active life.
While Canali runs the general business and its strategy, innovation, product creation and marketing, her companion Claes Broqvist currently supports her in sales, logistics and business relations.
Canali and Broqvist met as expatriates in Switzerland at Odlo, where they both started in different roles in 2009. They both left in 2015 for Bolzano, Canali’s hometown, with Broqvist joining the Oberalp Group as regional manager and then as chief sales officer until July 2019. After a five-month stint as international director of Vicis, an American producer of sports helmets, the Swedish manager became a consultant, capitalizing on his 30-year experience in the sports and outdoor sector. He worked for Nike and Häglofs before he became Odlo’s sales director. Declining to provide any figures at this stage, Canali said that SHER is still in a start-up mode. “We decided to take a step-by-step approach towards the development and not steer us blind on the result. The result will come if we do the ground work right and build a strong foundation, according to our strategy,” she said, adding that she is “proud and pleased with the first step, which we have in place.”
The next step will be to focus more efforts on brand awareness to build a relation with the targeted user through social media, advertising, events and influencers.