All businesses face challenges but what differentiates one business from the next is how it responds. Iffley Road – producer of running wear that performs well, looks smart and lasts a lifetime – aims to remain positive whatever’s happening. ‘That’s why we love running,’ says founder Claire Kent. ‘Because it provides the mental headspace when the going gets tough.’
In 2020 Iffley Road celebrates its seventh year, coinciding with the 66th anniversary of Roger Bannister’s sub four-minute mile at Iffley Road, Oxford. The brand already partly manufactures in England, adhering to a look that is pared-back and classic. This year it plans to expand the range of British-made kit, including merino base layers and lighter socks, in collaboration with Hilly.
‘From a macro point of view,’ says Kent, ‘a weak consumer climate and the possible aftermath of Brexit are obvious challenges. We source the greatest proportion of our kit in Europe then sell a fair share to European consumers, so sterling weakness and any possible import or export tariffs are a hindrance for us. So we’re looking to source more in both Britain and Asia, provided we can find the quality we demand.’
In 2020 Iffley Road celebrates its seventh year, coinciding with the 66th anniversary of Roger Bannister’s sub four -minute mile at Iffley Road, Oxford
Iffley Road customers will continue to receive the amazing combination of quality and functional style that garners rave reviews from runners: ‘The best running gear I’ve found in the ten plus years I’ve been hitting the roads, tracks and trails…’
Challenges aside, 2020 is set to be an exciting year for Iffley Road. Summer will see the launch of a new collaboration for which it will produce a special collection of co-branded running tops, caps and water bottles. The partnership will introduce Iffley Road to a completely new audience and the brand is planning some eye-catching activities, including a virtual running race and other competitions.
Expansion into North America is also on the cards, as soon as details are finalised with a well- known department store.
The company has always shot its campaigns in and around London but, as part of the move to consolidate its Britishness, is carrying out shoots further afield – including in the Malverns – to highlight the beauty of the British countryside. The move will chime well with the brand’s ethos that running should be viewed as part of a broader, healthy lifestyle.
But it’s this kind of story that underlines the brand’s true Brit appeal: one day a customer, a member of the RAF was in Richmond, where the brand is based. ‘He was passing the office and stopped by before running a lap of the park. While running he was caught in a torrential downpour, so when he returned to the office to collect his bag we lent him an array of dry kit. He was so impressed that it wasn’t long before Iffley Road had signed a contract with the Armed Forces, giving members a special discount. We signed the covenant in the offices of Bomber Harris at RAF High Wycombe,’ says Kent, ‘and it was a real honour.’