Americans are waiting for that other Nokia
(Time to put the boot in)
By Sami Sillanpää
As we all know only too well, Nokia has had difficulties breaking the U.S. market with its mobile phones.
Your successful American type is much more likely to be seen with an iPhone or a Blackberry in his or her hand than a Nokia handset.
But all is not lost, for there is another, more traditional product that has come out of the city near Tampere, on the banks of the Nokianvirta River.
A product that was more often associated with the name Nokia, in the days before mobile phones.
Right now it would have an excellent market opportunity in the global capital of urban fashion, New York City.
Trend-conscious hipsters can be seen strolling about with rubber boots on their feet in the workplace, at rock clubs, and café terraces - even at times when there is no rain about.
Boots are worn happily with summer frocks or a suit. In many cases the boots are tight-fitting, slinky affairs, and often colourful or decorated.
In the hub of coolness of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, branded welly-boots are to be seen in shop display windows alongside studded belts and vintage dresses.
Rubber boots became a fashionista talking-point back in 2005, when top model Kate Moss turned up in wellies and fetching tight hot pants at the Glastonbury Festival in England.
Thereafter wellies have been haute footwear on the streets of Tokyo, Paris, Milan, and yes, even Helsinki.
This has meant export orders also for the rubber boots made by Nokian Footwear - the other Nokia, the one whose rubber boot factory was opened in the town in 1904*.
However, the United States has not been among the buyers. Nokia footwear does not even have a retailer or a distributor in the U.S.
There has been interest from across the pond, but the obstacle to the conquest of discerning American feet has been a prohibitively high protective duty levied on the boots, says Product Manager Päivi Laaksonen-Oivio from Nokian Footwear.
It's a crying shame, really.
Given the recent dismissals at the other company of that name, there would be a very topical marketing slogan for the U.S. welly invasion:
"Nokia - Booting People".
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 17.5.2009
*Note: Nokian Footwear nowadays has nothing to do with the telecommunications giant of the same name, but the two companies do have a shared history. The Finnish Rubber Works (Suomen Gummitehdas Oy) moved to the town of Nokia in 1904, and from 1967-1990 the rubber boot and vehicle tyre manufacturing was an arm of the Nokia Corporation conglomerate, along with cable-making, forest industry, and electronics. The split when it came saw Nokia move increasingly into mobile telephony, divesting its other interests, while Nokian Tyres and Nokian Footwear took their own course. The rubber boot company is now part of the Berner Group.
Nokian Footwear history
SAMI SILLANPÄÄ / Helsingin Sanomat