Mia Kids’ New Strategy Drives Growth

A balanced approach to children’s footwear is paying off for Mia.

The Miami-based brand has seen sales of its girls’ line surge in the last two years, with the category now accounting for 20 percent of its overall business. And Chris Calcagno, president of Mia, said the segment is one of the company’s fastest growing. Although Mia has been making kids’ shoes for more than 15 years, Calcagno said a new strategy helped drive recent growth.

“For a while, we had focused almost exclusively on direct takedowns from our women’s line, but we ultimately realized that is only a small portion of what people want in kids’ shoes,” he said. “They also want styles that are built specifically for kids and that have that cutesy factor, while still being fashionable and on trend. It’s about striking a balance between being too basic and too over-the-top.”

Erica Weil, children’s buyer for Zappos.com, said that equilibrium sets Mia apart from other juniors’ brands making kids’ shoes. “The designs are trendy but still kid-friendly,” she said. “For instance, they scale down their wedge heel to just the right height [for young girls] without compromising on the fashion. They also address that customer who prefers a more traditional look, with [styles such as] their core Mary Jane shoes.”

Mia’s kids’ offering spans baby to tween shoes, with prices ranging from $30 to $50. Calcagno said sales of the toddler collection, Mini Mia, which launched in 2007, have been particularly strong. “We’re doing extremely well in that toddler segment,” he said. “We do many of the same looks we do for the older girls but adjust them to make them more toddler-friendly.”

Mia also has become a key brand for retailers looking for extended sizes. Although the bulk of the label’s kids’ business caps at a girls’ size 4, Mia makes shoes up to a size 9 for select customers, among them the tween-focused chain Justice.

With the growth of its kids’ line, Mia continues to expand distribution with major chains and department stores including Belk, Nordstrom, Shoe Carnival and Stride Rite, as well as e-tailers such as Piperlime.com and Shoes.com. But the independent channel is experiencing the biggest gains for the line, said Steve Stroup, president of Trimfoot Co., the sales and distribution agent for Mia Kids. “We’ve seen rapid growth in [the size of] our independent base to the tune of about 40 percent to 50 percent a year,” Stroup said. “Sell-throughs have been very strong [among these retailers].”

Sikes Children’s Shoes in Homewood, Ala., is a longtime Mia Kids customer. Sonya Jones, the store’s manager and buyer, said the line stands out from the growing crowd of takedown brands in the kids’ category. “A lot of other juniors’ brands are too mature looking, but Mia does a great job combining that little girl look with that big girl look,” she said. “We continue to do very well with the line, especially in this economy. Mia offers good quality and high fashion at a great price, which is something that appeals to our customers.”

To build on the momentum at retail, Mia recently branched out with Firebugs, featuring lighted kids’ shoes that utilize fiber-optic technology. An assortment of colorful printed flip-flops, including several styles for boys, hit stores this past spring. Rainboots will roll out next month, followed by jelly ballerinas for spring ’13. Mia also is exploring adding lighted accessories such as school backpacks to the Firebugs line, which retails from $15 to $35.

“We wanted to add something new and innovative to push our kids’ business forward,” Calcagno said. “In the first season, we had multiple reorders from a lot of retailers.”

To support the launch, Mia in April began running its first kids’ commercials on networks including Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and ABC Family.

Looking ahead, the brand is planning a major expansion of its New York showroom that will include a dedicated space for its kids’ collections. And Calcagno said the company will continue to explore opportunities to expand its kids’ offering, including possibly taking its higher-end Mia Limited Edition women’s collection down into girls’ sizes. “It’s limited runs, faster designs,” he said. “We’re working on building the women’s side right now, but it’s definitely something we might explore taking into the kids’ market in the future.”