After seeing strong performance by its Cartago flip-flop brand in South America and Europe, the Brazil-based footwear firm soft-launched the label in the States last June.
Brad Gruber, director of sales and merchandising for Grendene USA, noted that the men’s line is an offshoot of the company’s popular Rider brand.
“Several years ago, Grendene identified the success in Rider’s casual division, but they understood that the designers had limitations on the casual side because Rider has a younger, faster attitude,” he said. “What they did was take the casual out of Rider and create a separate brand. That allowed us to go deeper and embrace a different consumer.”
The Cartago collection is targeted to a traditional male customer who still embodies a youthful attitude. The styles feature more comfort features, better-quality materials and finer details than the Rider line, which in part accounts for their elevated price points, ranging from the high $30s to high $40s.
“It’s important to deliver value,” said Gruber. “That’s one of the big successes with Cartago so far.”
After an initial rollout with independent U.S. retailers, Cartago has added a wider selection of accounts, including majors such as The Buckle and DSW. “We’ve been able to work with some diverse retailers to reach different age markets and in different ways,” said Gruber.
However, the executive is being careful with introducing Cartago to the U.S. market, mainly because the Rider casual business is so unusually strong here.
“I’m not here to break anything; we’re here to be more valuable to the retailers,” said Gruber. “For those who are willing to ease into something new, that’s what we’re doing.”
He added that perhaps in a few years, Rider could phase out its casual division, but for the meantime, Grendene is working closely with stores to make a smooth transition. “You can’t go to a retailer and say, ‘This is successful in Europe.’ They care about this quarter,” explained Gruber. “Our launch of Cartago is the smartest based on the retail environment we’re in today.”