Brasher Brand Dead!
The big story from Berghaus is that from later this year, the Brasher Boot brand will cease to exist in its current form some 36-odd years after founder Chris Brasher began development of the revolutionary lightweight hiking boot that bore his name, however the good news for Brasher boot fans is that key models will still be available as part of the Berghaus footwear range and will mostly likely carry some form of Brasher branding too we're guessing.
They'll also retain their original Brasher names, which should minimise any confusion over which models are which, in other words, the Brasher Hillmaster II GTX, for example, will become the Berghaus Hillmaster II GTX.
The Same But Better?
Boots like the top-selling Hillmaster II GTX, the Supalite II GTX and Fellmaster GTX will still exist, but with Berghaus branding along with subtle improvements. The basics remain the same: the boots will continue to be produced in the same factories, will still use the excellent UK-tanned, permanently waterproof Pittards WR100X leather and will use the same last, so the fit will be identical.
The word 'improvements' is guaranteed to make brand fans shudder, but in this case, it's all good with the main change being a switch to more reliably grippy Vibram rubber for the outsoles of the Hillmaster and Supalite, but with no change to the distinctive mud-friendly, anti-clogging studded sole. And there's no increase in price either.
In other words, the end of the Brasher brand in its current form doesn't mean the demise of its most-loved leather boots.
What's Going On?
So why the shift? In short, the Brasher brand was, in business terms, 'unsustainable'. It had a substantial share of the leather boot market, but its fabric boots and approach shoes simply never took off. Meanwhile Berghaus sells lots of its Explorer fabric boots, but has never had much success with leather.
And what you may not know, is that both brands are part of the same Pentland Group of companies and are even based in the same building in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
Combine Brasher's leather boot sales and Berghaus's fabric ones and, on paper, the combined range would actually be the best selling selection of outdoor footwear in the UK. Or that was the theory. Of course the big question was whether Brasher's customers would accept the change of branding.
What followed was a huge research campaign by Berghaus including 55,000 questionnaires, 500 hours of focus groups and 250 miles walked with Brasher boot users the upshot of which was that Brasher boot users - some 67% of them - are also avid fans of Berghaus clothing and equipment.
The conclusion was broadly that 'consumers love the idea' with an estimated 95% of current Brasher fans happy with the change. On top of that, from a business point of view it makes sense too with more potential for a Berghaus brand to expand internationally - Brasher is a pure UK affair - and business efficiencies likely to create a better product going forward.
Brands Combine From Spring 2015
All of which means that from next spring 2015 - approximately February/March in the odd world of the outdoors industry calendar - Brasher, as it is, will cease to exist and you'll find Hillmasters and the like branded as 'Berghaus' on the shelves.
You can also expect lots of adverts telling you what's happened along with prominent swing-tags on the boots, but if you're a Brasher fan, what you really need to know is that the three core Brasher boots will still be available in men's and women's versions at the same price as before.
One oddity of the switch is that while the combined range will include both current Brasher and Berghaus boots, for now both will retain their current lasting and fit, so in the short term at least wearers of Berghaus fabric boots will find that the ex-Brasher leather range has a slightly different fit and vice versa.
Of course the continuation of the actual boots doesn't mitigate the basic sadness of saying goodbye to a long-established, iconic brand that arguably created the first genuinely innovative lightweight outdoor boot when Chris Brasher combined running shoe technology with the high-ankled format after suffering serious blisters while walking the roof of Wales in traditional boots.
Since then the brand's produced a succession of seminal brown leather boots including the best-selling Hillmaster, relaunched as the Hillmaster II in 2013 and the ultra-lightweight Supalite. At the same time, a succession of fabric boots and, in particular, mostly fabric approach shoes have flopped repeatedly, all of them slightly 'wrong' in the same way as Marks and Spencer's attempts at trendy fashion designs.
It would be great, we reckon, if the Brasher name could live on in some form, perhaps in the same way that Mammut's footwear range is still badged as powered by 'Raichle Footwear Technology'?
Bambi Is Dead, Long Live Bambi!
Put the sentiment to one side though and the reality is that if you want to buy a pair of leather Brasher boots from next spring, you'll still be able to do that, it's just that they'll be badged as Berghaus. If you're one of the relatively small number of Brasher fabric boot fans, you're out of luck, but you can still consider the best-selling Berghaus Explorer range as an alternative.
For most of us though, the reality is this: look beyond the change in branding and the actual boots are going to be pretty much identical with added Vibram soles.
You might also be interested in: A Short History of Brasher - Video