Stride Rite Lays Out Expansion Plan

Stride Rite’s product offering keeps on growing.

The Lexington, Mass.-based children’s brand has expanded its stable of character licenses and is making its first move into the apparel category under its Robeez label.

Among the new licenses is the preschool powerhouse Sesame Street. For back-to-school, Stride Rite will debut a line of Sesame Street footwear as part of its STEP system, which encompasses the Robeez Soft Soles, SRT Soft Motion and SRT Baby lines for infants and toddlers. The shoes, priced from $28 to $48, feature applications of favorite Sesame characters, including Elmo, Ernie and Abby Cadabby. The line will have wide-ranging distribution, from department stores including Nordstrom and Dillard’s to specialty chains and independents.

Sharon John, president of Stride Rite Children’s Group, said the company was attracted to the license because of its broad, multigenerational appeal. “[Sesame Street] has a strong connection and heritage with parents and grandparents. And the educational aspect of the brand also has special appeal to our specific demographic of consumers.”

Stride Rite’s Marvel license, acquired last year, will expand for spring with styles featuring Avengers superheroes Captain America, Hulk and Iron Man, who will appear in the upcoming Marvel movies “Captain America” and “The Avengers.” The line includes sneakers and flip-flops, retailing from $20 to $56.

Outside the footwear category, Stride Rite is partnering with its hosiery licensee, Oklahoma City-based McCubbin, to launch layette under its Robeez brand. The new Giftables collection for newborns and infants features two-piece cotton knit outfits with design details inspired by Robeez’s most popular footwear styles. Priced at $35, the sets, like the shoes, come in special packaging.

John said layette is a natural extension of the brand and a category that should help Robeez reach important new channels of distribution. “It gives us a chance to talk with retailers that are not part of the Robeez business.”

She added that the company sees a lot of potential to take the Stride Rite brand into even more product categories beyond shoes. “We’re in very early days of exploring what the over-arching licensing strategy could be,” she said. “Certainly, our brand has core equities that make it stretchable into many different categories, and we know moms expect us to be in other places.”

In a separate move, as part of its push to expand its global presence, Stride Rite parent firm Collective Brands Inc. has signed two licensing and retail development agreements to bring its portfolio of children’s brands to new Asian markets. Jakarta, Indonesia-based Map Active has been tapped to launch standalone Stride Rite stores in Indonesia and Thailand. The company also will sell the Stride Rite and Robeez lines through its Kidz Station retail stores and Kidzstationdirect.com e-commerce site.

In a separate agreement, Seoul, South Korea-based Neo Mio Corp. will open standalone Stride Rite stores in South Korea, as well as market Stride Rite and Robeez product through Stride Rite shop-in-shops and e-commerce throughout the country. Neo Mio also is the new Korean wholesale partner for the Sperry Top-Sider and Keds brands within both the adult and kids’ markets.

“We have seen strong global interest for our brands,” said Gregg Ribbatt, president and CEO of Collective’s Performance and Lifestyle Group. “[These new partnerships] across three new markets help us expand our footprint to better meet the growing international demand.”

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