Airwalk Set for Revamp

NEW YORK — Airwalk is aiming higher.

Collective Licensing International has inked a new footwear licensing deal with Canadian wholesaler Intersport North America for its Airwalk and Vision Street Wear brands. The move is part of an effort to garner distribution in higher-tier retailers.

INA, a subsidiary of Forzani Group Ltd., will manufacture and sell Airwalk-branded product in the U.S., and the Vision Street Wear collection throughout the Americas. The company already produces Collective Licensing’s Sims label.

As of Jan. 1, 2009, INA will take over the wholesale license that BBC International previously held for Airwalk. Collective Licensing President and CEO Bruce Pettet said the relationship ended amicably. “BBC’s been a great partner for us. I don’t have anything bad to say. [But] the key is the ability to service not just the large retailers but also a specialty channel. INA is a great partner as we look at how to build [the brands].”

Pettet said the deal fits with a larger strategy to refocus distribution in mall-based specialty retailers. However, none of the new retail agreements had been finalized at press time, and Pettet declined to disclose specifics.

Airwalk does significant business with Payless ShoeSource and Stride Rite (also owned by parent company Collective Brands Inc.) and Pettet said that will not change. “We are going to continue to do what we do with Payless and Stride Rite, [but] we have this huge vault of vintage and old-school styles. There are different collections we can do, and this is a great opportunity to get some of that out there [to higher-end retailers].”

With Vision — which had been produced by Gen-X Sports Inc., also a Forzani subsidiary — Pettet said, “We are going to continue to service [specialty stores and multi-chains], as well as continue to push really hard at boutiques. The brand has great heritage, and we’re [already] delivering T-shirts to Urban Outfitters and places where there’s some real demand for the brand. We are looking at agreements to get some exclusivity to retailers right now.”

As part of the deal, Collective Licensing and INA will open a design studio and showroom in Southern California. “For our brands, the L.A./Orange County marketplace is the epicenter of what’s happening, so we want to invest in having a presence there,” Pettet said.

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