Retail Guide: Up Close With Ronnie Fieg

It’s all about family.

That’s the philosophy of Ronnie Fieg, the owner of Kith, two New York-based men’s stores. As the second cousin to David Zaken, owner of the David Z chain, Fieg got his start in his relative’s store in 1995, working in the stockroom as a teenager and eventually ending up as a buyer.

His career took a turn in 2006 after working on a collaboration with Timberland Boot Co. Then, in 2007, Fieg’s talents as a designer gained wider exposure when he partnered on a project with Asics.

“We had three shoes [exclusive to David Z] and we sold 750 pairs in a matter of days,” he recalled. “The shoe ended up on the cover of The Wall Street Journal. People started to tell the story about me and it gained the interest of many blogs, and people started waiting for my goods to drop.”

In August of last year, Fieg teamed up with Atrium NYC owner Sam Ben-Avraham to open the first Kith store in Brooklyn, N.Y. In November, a Manhattan store debuted on Bleecker Street and Broadway.

“The store is a curated shop for men’s fashion,” Fieg said. “The name of the store is Kith, from the expression ‘kith and kin,’ which means friends and family. I dropped the ‘kin’ portion because I believe my friends are my family. I want people to feel like they are part of something when they come into the shop. They’re family.”

Customer profile: “Any male — and I don’t want to even say an age — who wants to buy product not because of a logo or name but because they are looking for a good, quality product.”

Competing in New York: “I haven’t walked into another shoe store in my area since I opened. My concern is with my consumer, not with other retailers. I’m looking to create something new.”

What’s working? “We’re seeing Dr. Martens really doing well in shoes and boots. Grenson is having a good run. On the athletic side, all the trainers from all the brands are doing well.”

What hasn’t worked? Basics. “I really need to be different, and people aren’t looking to me for basic product.”

Best lessons learned from David Z: “What I learned from David and working in the back office was to look at numbers. Other people who have tried to do similar things to what I’m doing, they are more on the creative side and don’t have the knowledge I have attained working for David for so long  — being able to crunch numbers and see sell-throughs and be involved on the business end.”

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