Vionic Ramps Up Growth

NEW YORK — Australian comfort brand Vionic is reimagining itself with more fashion-forward product and a global growth push.

After the company changed its name last year to Vionic Group LLC, from Vasyli LLC, and consolidated its Orthaheel, Vionic and Dr. Weil Integrative Footwear brands, the results are paying off.

According to Chris Gallagher, president and CEO of Vionic Group, the new name and styling updates have contributed to a 30 percent to 40 percent uptick in business for the first quarter of 2014 over last year. This follows a period of robust growth, where the company more than doubled its business for each of the past four years.

All the shoes continue to incorporate the company’s proprietary Orthaheel biomechanical insole technology. “Orthaheel was connecting with consumers well on a functional level, [but] it wasn’t doing its job with the emotional connection,” Gallagher said of the decision to drop the moniker as a brand name. However, he noted, the Orthaheel technology will continue to be identified on product.

In addition to the name change, the company is increasing its emphasis on the men’s category, which accounts for 20 percent of sales.

Vionic is giving the men’s offering a more fashionable point of view, along with the rest of the collection.

“Spring has been the real fashion push,” Gallagher said about the season’s trend-driven collection, which includes women’s loafers, wedges and platforms, as well as men’s dress shoes and athletic-inspired styles.

While the U.S. serves as the global headquarters, the firm is intensifying its reach into foreign markets. It recently opened a London office to oversee the European business and hired a managing director there. Over the next eight months, said Gallagher, an office in China will be added to serve the Asia-Pacific region. “[However], we’re not putting a lot of pressure on ourselves overseas,” he added. “The U.S. is still our major focus.”

To support the growth, the company expanded its warehouse space to 90,000 square feet. “It’s a state-of-the-art facility,” said Gallagher. “We’re shipping in less than 24 hours.”

Vionic’s retail partners include more than 1,000 fashion and comfort independents, select athletic specialty stores and its own e-commerce site, which contributes about 5 percent of sales.

One of its key accounts is shopping channel QVC, where it launched in 2010. The partnership has helped the brand increase its awareness across the entire market, according to executives. “Retailers like when the brand is on QVC,” said Gallagher, pointing to a resulting uptick in sales in other retail channels. “It has generated a lot of awareness.”

According to Jim Sajdak, president and CEO of Stan’s Fit for Your Feet, a five-unit chain in Milwaukee, shoppers are gravitating to the product.

“[Vionic] has a wider range of customers than we thought,” said Sajdak. “People like the footbed and are now looking for it in all types of footwear.”

To further spark sales, Vionic this month launched its first print and TV campaign through its newly appointed agency, Iron Creative in San Francisco. The tongue-in-cheek print ads are featured in publications such as Southern Living, Shape and Prevention, while TV spots aimed at local markets cross-promote Dillard’s and Belk, two of the company’s key retailers.