How Kith Won Over the Retail Landscape in 2016

Kith Manhattan New York City Ronnie
A look inside Kith's Manhattan door.
Courtesy of Kith.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, Footwear News will host its 2016 Achievement Awards in New York, honoring the best and brightest in the industry, including Retailer of the Year winner Kith. Read on to learn more about the store’s accomplishments.

In just five years, Kith has emerged as a budding retail empire. And the secret, according to founder Ronnie Fieg, is an egalitarian approach.

“Kith caters to a large spectrum of people — every race, every age, both genders, kids as well. We cover anyone who wants to be special,” Fieg told Footwear News. “We try to be the people’s champ when it comes to product and retail, and that’s made a big difference.”

The retailer, who got his start in uncle David Zaken’s Big Apple chain, opened his first New York store in Brooklyn in 2011 (it now features an atypical cereal bar dubbed Kith Treats). He has since introduced two more must-stop shops, both in Lower Manhattan: The first debuted in 2011, and a women’s-only space launched in 2015.

Kith-Store-1 The Kith Treats cereal bar. Courtesy of Kith.

With his position atop New York boutique retail solidified, Kith’s founder and creative director is now looking to dominate out of state. On Wednesday, a new door will debut in Miami, followed by a four month seasonal shop in Aspen, Colo., set to bow the second week of December.

But Fieg’s most wave-making move of 2016 was securing a permanent space in Bergdorf Goodman. The Kith area within the men’s shop of Bergdorf’s long-standing Fifth Avenue storefront was unveiled in September during New York Fashion Week.

“Bergdorf showed interest in us about a year ago,” Fieg explained. “It is an institution of fashion globally, [and] when that opportunity was brought about, we saw it as an amazing notch in the timeline for our brand.”

Kith’s robust sales have made the expansion possible, which Fieg stated is split roughly 50-50 between footwear and apparel, with Kith-branded product accounting for a little more than half of revenues. And while much of the business is rooted in sneakers, the retailer also prides itself on supporting new brands and delivering a stellar brown shoe.

“Ronnie and the team at Kith have the unique ability to both recognize trends and create them,” said Cal Dowers, VP and GM of Nike Sportswear for North America. “They have a laser-sharp focus on their consumer and work to curate a premium shopping experience that has a clear, authentic point of view.”

In a short time, Fieg has introduced U.S. consumers to new international names, including Japan-based labels Suicoke and Caminando, and helped reinvigorate brands with a long-standing following here, such as Asics.

“Kith has been instrumental in the growth of our Asics Tiger brand, to say it very mildly,” said Colin Brickley, senior sales and marketing manager at Asics America.

Brickley added it trusts Fieg to launch and relaunch styles to the marketplace. “Instead of going to mass market, what better way to introduce it than through Kith in a limited amount of pairs with a great story behind the project?” he said.

Ronnie Fieg Asics Gel Lyte 3 & 3.1 Super Green Ronnie Fieg x Asics Gel Lyte 3 & 3.1 “Super Green.” Courtesy of RonnieFieg.com

Although Fieg will continue to feed the market with product that customers want, his brick-and-mortar store expansion will happen at a much slower pace.

“We have meetings a few times a year about opening new shops, and up until now I haven’t felt like it’s been time,” he said. “The Miami thing has been a year-plus in the works, and I don’t have plans to open another five to 10 stores. It’s still meant to be coveted and special in the cities where we do show up. I’m not looking to expand very fast.”