Parent firm Wolverine Worldwide Inc. announced it has signed a multiyear licensing agreement with Vida Shoes International for the nearly 100-year-old children’s brand. Under the agreement, New York-based Vida will become the global Stride Rite brand licensee for footwear and other products, subject to existing licenses, beginning next month.
In addition, Wolverine revealed the creation of the Wolverine Children’s Group, a new division that will focus on the strategic expansion of the Rockford, Mich.-based company’s children’s business under its various brands, among them Saucony, Keds, Sperry, Hush Puppies and Merrell. Industry veteran Bornie Del Priore has been tapped to lead the new group as VP and GM. Del Priore will report to Richie Woodworth, president of the company’s Boston group.
Wolverine chairman, CEO and president Blake Krueger said Vida — which already oversees an expansive portfolio of kids’ brands including Carter’s, OshKosh B’Gosh and Hanna Andersson — is a great fit for Stride Rite.
“Wolverine has a long history of working with top partners to license and distribute our brands around the world,” he said in a statement. “Stride Rite is an iconic, premium children’s footwear brand, and this global partnership is the next stage in its nearly century-long history. Vida Shoes shares our mission to design products that kids love, while offering parents fashionable and functional options for their children. We’re confident they will be a great partner [in this venture].”
Krueger added that the new developments within Wolverine’s children’s business are central to the company’s Way Forward strategic platform, launched in December with the goal of driving growth and boosting profitability.
Brian McManus, EVP and GM of Vida Kids, a division of Vida Shoes International, told Footwear News that the company is aiming for a smooth transition for Stride Rite. “The most important thing to us is continuity. We want to ensure that there is no interruption in the consumer’s experience, and that the product quality and messaging are consistent,” he said. “We’ve spent a lot of time with Wolverine working out transitional service agreements to make sure there is zero interruption.”
He added that Vida will take over sales, marketing and design responsibilities starting July 2, though discussions are still under way about certain back-end functions.
Looking ahead, the Vida team is targeting several growth opportunities for Stride Rite, according to McManus. It aims to broaden the brand’s distribution by exploring new retail channels such as sporting-goods stores, while also entering different product categories and reducing promotional activity to strengthen the core collection.
McManus also pointed to Stride Rite’s 40 licensed stores as another key asset. “We think the stores are the heart and soul of the brand. [Visiting the stores] has been almost a rite of passage that today we don’t see as much. We want to get back to that,” said McManus, who started his career as a Stride Rite store manager during college. “We want to embrace these stores and figure out how to grow this brand experience, which will put more awareness out in the marketplace. It will help every other point of distribution.”