What were key customer characteristics of Vans’ earliest customers and public perceptions of skateboarding during this time?
Vans’ earliest customers were surfers, high school students, mostly teenagers. They played some sports, liked practical yet fashionable and inexpensive customized shoes. Authenticity, style, affordability and quality were their main motives while buying Vans’ shoes. It then evolved with skateboarders and their followers. Skateboarders favored Vans because of the functionality of the shoes (the rubber soles were ideal for maintaining a solid grip on the skateboard) but most importantly the price (7 dollars was a steal for this well made, customizable shoe). At this time, skateboarding was viewed as a reckless, dangerous and hazardous sport for the general public.
How has the company’s competitive position and its value proposition changed over time?
Vans’ competitive advantage was the fact that they manufactured in the US compare to other companies at the time, they had a very short cycle time from receipt of order to completion of goods and also had an extensive range of styling. They were also pioneers in distributing to skateboarders and other alternative sports fans. They developed from early on a strong and recognizable identity. Vans catered to skateboarders and “extreme” sports adepts and fans from the start (Surfing, Skateboarding, BMX, Wakeboarding, Snowboarding, Waterboarding, Motocross). Their core business has always been focusing on the skateboarding market and they developed a strong culture around this sport. Their customers and the general public would identify the brand with certain sports. This is a big advantage over the competition. At the same time, it also was one of the reasons why they failed to extend in different sports markets (when they tried to penetrate other markets that were different from their core business and culture they filed for bankruptcy). They went back to their roots, developing a...
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