Breaking up is hard to do, no matter if it’s a boyfriend, friend, family member, or a brand and job you love. The past six months have been a hard one. I’ve started this post on several occasions and haven’t exactly known what to say. As you may know, I worked for Pearl Izumi and I’ve been responsible for marketing the run category for the last three years. On August 19, 2016 Pearl Izumi announced we were discontinuing our run apparel and footwear.
This may seem like a shock to some and to others it may make perfect business sense. Pearl Izumi is discontinuing the run category starting January 1, 2017. Since last August, I’ve been going through all 5 stages of mourning. Some days I am better at coping than others. Most days I am still in denial and disbelief.
At first, I was told that Pearl Izumi wanted to keep me and my talents and use them on the cycling side of the business. I came up with a job description and fleshed out details of all kinds of things I could do to help Pearl Izumi not only engage with more women (the cycling industry is sorely behind the times in this aspect) but to also connect with more customers on a grassroots level. I feel like I’ve honed these skills over the past two decades and could really make an impact.
Days became weeks and weeks became months, I found myself with increasingly less and less to do and more time on my hands as our leadership team decided how the company would move forward and what my role would be in the future.
Here’s a little back ground: Pearl Izumi has been the leader in performance cycling gear for several years and mostly without having to do any marketing or brand awareness at all. The cycling apparel industry is just recently seeing several new micro brands pop up and change the game. Rapha for instance doesn’t sell it’s goods in the traditional independent bike shop channel, focusing instead on selling their gear directly either online or their own coffee/cycling shops. This not only increases their profits but also takes small businesses out of the decision making loop.
Pearl Izumi is in a critical time right now, where market share is slowly being eaten away from “cooler” more boutique brands. Also, on the scene are more brands catering to versatility. If you own any cycling gear, you know the main drawback is that cycling gear is a uni-tasker — you can’t be 5 feet away from your bike wearing bike shorts or you are sure to look and feel awkward.
Customers are looking for versatility — I want to be able to wear my tights on my cruiser, to the coffee shop, to yoga and not have to purchase more gear just for riding my bike. However, there is a place for the uni-tasking bib shorts — my rule of thumb is any ride longer than 15 miles. Anything shorter and I opt for chamois free tights or shorts.
In my heart, I feel like the Pearl Izumi Run line was perfectly poised to address the casualization of America and the versatile gear men and women are looking for, gear that performs, is comfortable, versatile and you feel good and look good in it. Our run product team was the best in the building and our sales numbers were proving it…just a little too late for some on our management team.
Pearl Izumi Run has struggled over the past 10 years to make an impact in a crowded and tough category lead by behemoths like NIKE, Brooks and New Balance. I feel like we were the favorite underdog and had a growing loyal customer base and some kick-ass products.
Alas, it’s not meant to be and I feel like it’s a personal failure — even though I know the decision had nothing to do with me and my performance, but more to do with the leadership team and their vision for the future.
I had a team of 400 run ambassadors, my Champion Team as they were called. They are a group of very passionate and inspiring runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities. The community of runners we created was second to none, and I am sad that I don’t get to lead them in 2017, but know our paths will cross again soon.
In the end, Pearl Izumi decided they didn’t need me after all, and I’ve moved on to more exciting adventures. I’ll update you all on those adventures soon.
#pearlizumirun #pichampion #pilove