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Rujo wants to give the cowboy boot industry a youthful makeover

Dallas-based company sells boots designed in Dallas and made in Leon, Mexico.

A conversation between golfing buddies has led to a boot company with a youthful twist.

Rujo, which means “to roar” in Spanish, was launched in Dallas last year and sells boots that are designed in Dallas and produced by craftsmen in Leon, Mexico — the self-described “shoe capital of the world.” The finished boots are shipped to its warehouse in Dallas for fulfillment to customers, and the e-commerce company sells cowboy boots to customers across the United States.

A year after it was founded, Rujo ships approximately 5,000 pairs of boots per month.

Rujo’s general manager, Randy Lockard, has lived in Dallas since 1987 and has had a long career in luxury leather goods. He was vice president of marketing services for Dallas-based Haggar Clothing for four years in the early ‘90s. Then he spent 13 years at Tandy Brands Accessories in Arlington as president of the men’s division and wrapped up his corporate career with seven years at Fossil as the senior vice president of its men’s division.

After he retired, Lockard did consulting work for a few years before being approached in 2019 by a longtime golfing friend about starting Rujo. Lockard and Rujo’s three founders sensed an opening in the cowboy boot industry for good boots at a good price. Rujo’s lead investor and managing partner is Fred Baker, president and founder of Parking Systems of America.

Randy Lockard is the general manager of Rujo boots.
Randy Lockard is the general manager of Rujo boots.(Shelby Tauber / Special Contributor)

Rujo is entering a saturated boot market and joining established brands Ariat, Justin, Lucchese, Nocona, Tony Lama, Roper, Frye and newcomer Tecovas, an Austin-based company that also started as an e-commerce direct-to-consumer boot retailer. Since its founding in 2014, Tecovas has expanded into brick-and-mortar sales with 17 stores across the nation. Dallas-based boot brand Miron Crosby was started by two sisters, Lizzie Means Duplantis and Sarah Means, in 2017, and has stores in Highland Park Village and Aspen, Colo.

Lockard said Rujo has no plans to open physical stores but wouldn’t rule it out in the future.

Lucchese’s men’s cowboy boots start at $395 and are priced all the way up to $12,995. Tecovas’ men’s cowboy boots run from the mid-$200s to $1,495. Rujo’s boots retail from $225 to $415.

Western wear is having a moment in the fashion industry, and several contemporary shoe brands such as Jeffrey Campbell and Steve Madden are now offering their own renditions of cowboy boots with a stylish twist. Fast-fashion retailers are also hopping on the trend, selling boots made out of synthetic and vegan materials.

Edward Fox, a marketing professor at SMU focusing on retail studies, said that “online apparel and shoe sales grew through the pandemic, but more physical store sales were lost than online sales gained. So the market shrank. On the other hand, there is pent-up consumer demand, so we expect apparel and shoe sales to rebound.”

What makes Rujo different from established cowboy boot brands? Lockard says it’s because the company approaches all operations and design decisions from the consumer standpoint.

“You know, if we’re going to buy a pair of boots, what would we like? We would like cool boots, a good price and good service,” said Lockard.

One point of differentiation for Rujo is the company’s youthful branding, something Lockard calls modern Western.

“There are plenty of people in the Western boot business who pursue the old traditional artisan craftsmanship, which is fine,” Lockard said. “But there’s a whole other side of the business and consumer daily living that we thought allowed for a different approach; there’s a lot of cowboys that drive electric cars.”

The company’s website is also contemporary-looking, with videos and photos of models wearing boots while wakeboarding and skydiving, encompassing the modern Western aesthetic and the company’s motto, “Be brave.”

Rujo boots have Cloud Walk Memory Foam insoles.
Rujo boots have Cloud Walk Memory Foam insoles.(Shelby Tauber / Special Contributor)

Thanks to the company’s proprietary merchandising software, a lot of the guesswork is eliminated.

“We do have really good analytics; we have very high-quality measurement of what sells, when it sells, where it sells and price points, colors and sizes,” said Lockard.

Rujo’s software measures every component in a boot and allows direct communication between customers and the brand. The incoming sales data is monitored by Lockard and the agency that runs its digital marketing to help improve the design of the boots.

To many cowboy boot wearers, comfort plays a decisive role, Lockard said.

“The fit and feel of the boot is the magic of the boot, right?” he said. “That’s what makes cowboys.”

Rujo’s Cloud Walk Memory Foam insoles ensure that comfort, Lockard said. The footwear industry has a high return factor, but only five pairs of Rujo’s boots were returned last year due to quality issues, he said.

Rujo also offers free shipping and free returns.

The company’s most profitable segment is the exotic boot category featuring boots made out of ostrich, caiman and teju lizard. In this segment, Rujo’s boots are $25 to $35 under the market price, putting them in the “kill zone,” said Lockard, who is constantly monitoring market prices. Rujo has sold boots to customers in every state, and 40% of its sales come from Texas. The company is doubling the size of its warehouse and fulfillment center, which will now be able to hold 5,600 pairs of boots.

Lockhard said two goals for the company are to try to gain a larger share of the women’s boot market and to continue to live by its motto of encouraging bravery.

“There is a component to life that allows you to be brave, whether you’re a nurse or a fireman or in the military or riding a bull or whatever,” he said. “There’s a component of ‘be brave’ in so many people — they’re not riding horses but very possibly they’re going to be doing something in their life that calls upon them to be brave on occasion, and we just want to support the idea.”

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