Carlos Drums Up New Business

NEW YORK — When Carlos by Carlos Santana launched 10 years ago, it was one of only a few celebrity shoe lines.

Even as many star-powered labels have stumbled, the brand has maintained a strong position in the market and is embarking on big plans for its future, including a fresh marketing strategy, international expansion and a focus on e-commerce. “We see tremendous growth within this brand at all points of distribution,” said Rick Gelber, SVP and GM for Carlos by Carlos Santana.

To cater to consumers in markets such as Los Angeles, Miami and Houston, the label is exploring regional marketing and engaging consumers online and through signage such as billboards for its fall campaign. “We’ll use target markets instead of broad campaigns,” Gelber said.

International expansion is also a large focus for the brand, which launched in Dubai three years ago. Currently, Gelber is searching for distributors in other countries.

“It’s wide open, [but] some markets are better than others,” said Gelber. “The [Carlos] name and his face [on the brand] helps internationally to create excitement.”

On the e-commerce front, the collection has seen double-digit increases on Carlosshoes.com during the last two years and will work to continue that momentum with more music tie-ins and connections to the artist’s concert schedule.

Overall, brand execs are working more closely with the line’s namesake on design and business strategies.

They also plan to focus on expanding with key retailers such as Macy’s, Zappos.com and Shoebuy.com.

“They know who they are and who their customer is,” said Megan Moser, VP of merchandising for Shoebuy, which has been selling Carlos since 2006. “They are able to deliver trend-right looks for the fashion-savvy shopper at a great value.”

Robert Yeganeh, owner of Love My Shoes in New York’s Long Island, attributed the brand’s success to its adaptive nature. “They are changing as the customer changes,” he said. “You see [that] from one season to another, and that’s very important.”

The label is expanding into new retail doors with casual sub-brand Unity, which launched last year with looks such as embellished flip-flops and flats, at a lower price point. The line retails at DSW, Endless.com and Brown Shoe Co.’s Famous Footwear chain.

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