Stride Rite Plans Retrofit Of Pro-Keds

LOS ANGELES — Can Pro-Keds make a comeback?

After several attempts in recent years to revive the 60-year-old brand, Lexington, Mass.-based Stride Rite has terminated its license with hip-hop mogul Damon Dash’s Rocawear label and brought the brand back in-house. A relaunch based on classic styles is slated for spring ’09.

“In the recent past, the brand has lacked focus and lacked patience,” said Gregg Ribatt, president and CEO of Stride Rite. “As a result, [Pro-Keds] has pursued things like co-branding [with Rocawear]. That lack of strategic approach hasn’t enabled the brand to fulfill its potential. [Now] we’re very focused on controlling distribution and trying to grow the business the right way for the long term.”

Rocawear, owned by New York-based Iconix Brand Group, did not return calls seeking comment last week.

Ribatt said it was too early to disclose details about the relaunch and the brand direction. However, he said the label would target 16- to 30-year-old male consumers. “We’re more focused on being a classic American brand, less hip-hip, more for the trendsetter,” he said. “Clearly, we’re going to improve the styling and the quality. We’re going to make the shoes look better and feel better.”

Exclusivity will be a key to the brand’s strategic plan, Ribatt said, noting that limited-edition products and artist collaborations would be essential to refueling interest. Prices will likely fall in the $50-to-$80 price range.

For his part, Susquehanna Financial Group analyst John Shanley applauded the decision. “It’s a great idea that they’re bringing it back in-house,” he said. “There is an opportunity and people can still relate to Pro-Keds if they bring back some of the old designs that were in the marketplace.”

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