Asics is latest footwear company vying for space in Boston
US arm of Japanese company plans to set up a product design and creation studio near South Station
Another premier athletic shoe company is making the trek to Boston.
The US arm of Japan-based apparel and shoemaker Asics is opening a product creation and design studio near South Station. Asics’ initial presence will run to about 50 people in a 25,000-square-foot office space.
With its new space, the shoemaker, a favorite among serious runners, will be competing against other major brands locating in Boston — including New Balance, Converse, and Reebok — for talented innovators as it focuses on casual runners and even nonathletes.
“Since I’m a feisty competitor myself, I do believe we need to go nose-to-nose and toe-to-toe with our competition, so sometimes you just have to be where the battle is,” said Asics America chief executive Gene McCarthy. “So we’re going to be looking to add talent to our already very rich culture, and just get an additional bounce in our step by being on the East Coast.”
About 25 of the employees will transfer to Boston from the US company’s headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and global headquarters in Kobe, Japan, while another 25 will be new hires. So far, “there is no shortage of resumes that are coming through,” said McCarthy, who previously worked for Reebok and Timberland in New Hampshire.
The company declined to say where the new space is located, citing ongoing lease negotiations
Asics is also looking into opening a local retail store location, but that won’t be for at least another year, McCarthy said.
The company already has a presence in the city by way of its $85 million acquisition in 2016 of Boston startup FitnessKeeper Inc., whose RunKeeper GPS route-tracking app is used by millions of joggers and runners worldwide. Shortly after the purchase, Asics established a global digital division in FitnessKeeper’s Winthrop Square headquarters. McCarthy said the 50-person team there could grow to 70 in the next six to 12 months.
Heading up the new Boston office will be David Ayers, Asics America’s vice president of apparel, who most recently was an executive at Under Armour. The development team will first work out of the Winthrop Square office this summer, and move into the new space toward the end of the year.
For McCarthy, 60, this is just the latest major move in the year and a half he’s been at the helm of Asics America, which had sales of $1 billion in 2016. The American arm underwent a complete management overhaul as it positioned itself for growth and transition under McCarthy.
“We’re changing not just leadership, we’re changing culture,” McCarthy said. “Maybe two years ago the mantra would’ve been from our consumer, ‘running is my life.’ Now the mantra is, ‘running is a part of my life.’ So as the consumer shifts, so do we. So there’s a lot going on with this brand. It’s been hectic.”