Shoe company to target action-sport customers with casual designs.

Officially, Gravis is a new, Burlington, Vermont-based independent footwear company. Unofficially, it’s under the Burton Snowboards umbrella and is drawing heavily from the resources at that company’s headquarters-but in the future that will be diminished significantly.

Gravis Owner Jake Burton Carpenter has chosen to keep his snowboard-brand name centered strictly around snowboarding products, while launching the footwear company as a separate corporation with its own brand identity.

“We did it because everyone here has a really difficult time going into a store and finding a shoe they like,” says Carpenter. “And I think footwear companies have not shown the same respect for their consumers that we have for our riders. I could be very naive and overconfident in this respect, but keeping the shoe separate from Burton will keep it well received in terms of not screwing up distribution or oversaturating the logo.”

He says his snowboard company’s history gives the new venture a lot of experience to start off with. “Burton’s been making footwear for a long time and our understanding of the foot will only get better.”

Gravis will be targeted at the fifteen- to 25-year-old male and female who is into the ‘core sports of surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding. According to Alan Peterson, sales and marketing manager, Gravis won’t make skate shoes, nor will the company jump into another existing category. In fact, they believe there is a void for casual, but performance-oriented shoes within the boarding world.

Peterson and his staff have been researching the customers and trying to design a whole new shoe for the market. “Our approach has always been to listen to our customers,” he says. “With these shoes, we’ve looked at things from the ground up. We actually tested the feet of 150 kids at Mt. Hood Oregon this summer, and then went to the YMCA skatepark in Encinitas California, and even hit some surf spots to do the same. We found that the athletes doing these sports tend to have a wider forefoot than normal, so we’ve made a new last to fit that type of foot.”

Although the shoes will be designed to be rugged and suitable for crappy weather like snow and rain, the outer designs will be simple and clean. “Our goal is to get the product to speak for itself,” says Peterson.

However, the product won’t be speaking just yet. The shoes won’t be shown to retailers until April, and will be delivered to shops next fall in time for the back-to-school season. About 80 percent of the Burton rep force will be used to sell the shoes to a limited number of dealers. Look for several styles in different price ranges with an equal number of men’s and women’s designs.

-John Stouffer