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YCC Spotlight: Greg Segel, YORK Athletics Mfg.

Greg is a passionate e-commerce leader with over seven years of expertise in growth marketing. Greg began his career as the third member of ’47’s e-commerce team, taking the site from dwindling profits to $27 million in just a few short years. With a keen eye for product and trends, Greg has experience with multiple professional sports leagues and has collaborated with top-tier talent and partners, including Carhartt, Supreme, 686 and Diamond Supply Co. In 2021, Greg joined YORK Athletics as the VP of E-Commerce to lead its next chapter of growth.

Q: You spent the first seven years of your career at ’47 helping to build the Boston-based retailer into a multimillion-dollar omnichannel brand. What did you learn from that experience and how did it prepare you for your role as VP of E-Commerce at YORK?

A: When I started at ’47, the goal was simple: scale as quickly as possible. To get that done, I was tasked with just about everything you could imagine. From running email and paid media, to warehouse management and fulfillment, to buying and merchandising and everything in between. Nothing was too big or too small of a task to take on. For a kid fresh out of college with limited e-commerce experience, this was a lot to take in at once, but an experience I wouldn’t change. I learned every facet of what makes an online business successful, and even more importantly, I quickly learned what I was really good at and where I needed to improve.

With such a small team at YORK, it’s very similar to my early days at ’47. Being able to pass along my knowledge of the space to others will be extremely important for the success of the business. As we’re all able to grow and push each other to one common goal, we’ll start to see better results each and every day. It’s not a sprint, but a marathon — and one I’m excited to run with this team.

Q: ’47 and YORK Athletics are both family-owned brands. What do you find intriguing and/or beneficial about working for independent companies? 

A: Vested interest! But seriously, when it’s a family-run company, there’s a passion that funnels from the top to the bottom that’s unlike what you’d see at most privately-owned companies. The connection that’s formed among the team and ownership group is second to none. You want to succeed for each other, not for someone sitting on the 100th floor to whom you’ve never spoken. It truly pushes everyone to be the best version of themselves day in and day out.

Q: ’47 has been in business for over 50 years longer than YORK and has a much larger employee base. After six months in your new role at YORK, what’s your experience been like going from a bigger brand to a startup? 

A: When I started at ’47, the ecomm team emulated a startup. Yes, there was a “name” that backed our product, but we were still relatively unknown outside of stadium and wholesale accounts. When friends and family would ask where I worked, I’d have to direct them to the side logo on the hat before getting an “Ohhh, I know them” response. Truthfully, ’47 prepared me perfectly for this role. I’ve been able to take a lot of the same startup tactics I used at ’47 to implement within YORK. Meeting cadences, yearly/quarterly/monthly prep docs, customer roadmap strategies, etc. have all evolved to fit YORK.

Q: Boston is home to some iconic sneaker brands in the world — two of which you interned for in college, Puma and Reebok. How do you see YORK standing apart from its competitors amid a crowded space, locally and beyond?

A: YORK is an outlier, and we’re OK with that. The massive logos and global campaigns the bigger brands go for isn’t what’s true to YORK. We’re not in it for the “hype” or to be a flash in the pan. We make shoes for the everyday person. Whether you’re looking to sneak in a workout at lunch, take the kids to school or meet friends for a drink, YORK’s shoes are with you every step of the way. They perform in the gym and look stylish enough to wear out. You can’t do that with most of the bigger brands’ products.

Q: With the appetite for online shopping hitting all-time highs amid the pandemic, what are some of the e-commerce trends you’re following as we accelerate out of the turn and into 2022?

A: Loyalty & Retention Marketing: The pandemic shifted consumers to online retailers, making the space more competitive than ever. With that increase in competition, acquisition channels become flooded, causing costs to skyrocket to record highs. With that being said, it’s even more imperative to focus on retaining those within your community. Retention and loyalty need to be synonymous with one another. Loyalty doesn’t just happen after purchase or because they’ve liked a social post. Loyalty comes when a consumer feels an authentic connection with the brand. It isn’t the consumer’s responsibility to build this connection, it’s 100% the brand’s responsibility. Everything from the brand story/message, product, website, email flows, customer service, post-purchase, etc. must all be taken into consideration. If you can establish a customer journey that creates an authentic connection, then you have a customer for life — one who purchases multiple times a year, who tells their friends and family about you and becomes a walking endorsement.

Affiliate & Ambassador Relations: Again, with traditional media costs at an all-time high, it’s imperative that as a brand we have additional mediums in which we can target customers — in steps affiliate marketing. Outside of attracting traditional affiliates like shopping publications, tech partners and influencers, NIL has opened the door to collegiate athletes. Still in its infancy, it’ll be extremely interesting to see how this will shake up the industry. We’ve recently engaged with a company called Postgame to work with over 30 D1 athletes to help spread awareness of our brand, and may look to continue to do so as we head into 2022.

In our world, an influencer affiliate is different than an ambassador. An affiliate is strictly paid for performance. Yes, they may like your product, but they’re more often than not motivated by how much they stand to make. Ambassadors, on the other hand, are motivated by the connection they’ve established with the brand. At YORK, we have an extensive list of ambassadors who love our product and we’re now making it an even bigger point of emphasis to work side-by-side on amplifying both parties.

Bundles/Subscription Services: I’ve also been looking more closely at bundles and subscription services — both of which have been on the rise. These models present a unique opportunity to increase customer lifetime value and average order value. Heading into 2022, YORK will look to test either one or both to some degree.

Q: What are your ambitions for the company over the next few years and how do you see YCC playing a role in achieving those goals? 

A: To challenge mainstream brands like Nike, Adidas and Puma by providing an alternative to athletic shoes that are only catered to performance athletes who like big logos and product hype. To me, YORK is the industry’s best-kept secret and it’s mine and the rest of the team’s job to spread the word. Once we get a pair on you, we know you’ll be hooked.

YCC is going to be huge for us in achieving these goals. With such a small team, we’ll need to rely on the variety of services YCC can provide. Creative production, videography, branding, etc. are all going to be pivotal as we continue into the next phase of YORK Athletics. Outside of the services YCC can provide, to me, what separates YCC from most is the leadership team that’s in place. Being able to leverage their past experiences and industry knowledge is something you can’t put a price on. The YORK team is lucky to have a direct line of communication with them, and it’s one we’ll certainly be taking advantage of to succeed.