Palladium Boots Up Retail Plans

LOS ANGELES — K-Swiss Inc.’s Palladium brand is ready to expand with three U.S. stores, a new ad campaign and colorful, lightweight products aimed at expanding the seasonality of its collection.

The label recently opened its first U.S.-based stores in Houston and Glendale, Calif., and is preparing to bow a door in the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, N.Y., later this month.

In all, 11 stores are slated to open internationally by year-end, with more to follow in 2012. That’s in addition to its current locations in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, London and Taiwan.

“We believe these stores can be profit centers,” said Barney Waters, VP of marketing for Palladium.

The push for branded retail — through a combination of company-owned locations and a franchised business — comes as Palladium is expanding its product range with three new spring collections: Lite, Slim and Blanc.

The Lite offering, inspired by minimalism trends in the athletic market, features a lightweight outsole, as well as moisture-wicking properties and a breathable canvas upper. “It’s essentially a boot for summer,” said Waters.

The Slim line includes sleeker silhouettes with a more fashionable slant that maintain the brand’s signature styling. “It retains some of the key boot [elements], but has reduced the profile of the shoe and slimmed it down,” said Waters. “But if you look at it, you can still see Palladium.”

Lastly, the Blanc collection features colorful uppers with white outsoles.

For his part, Christopher Svezia, analyst at Susquehanna Financial, said the company’s product evolution appears to be connecting with retailers and consumers. “From a product perspective, it definitely looked better [for spring], and the backlog numbers are strong,” he said. “[The brand] is gaining some traction.”

Palladium also continues to reach out to consumers through grassroots marketing. It recently unveiled its latest urban exploration video, this time featuring musician and designer Pharrell Williams in a documentary called “Tokyo Rising.” In the short film, Williams explores the city, interviews residents and finds sources of creativity in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country in March.

The film is being promoted online, and print ads direct consumers to visit the brand’s website to watch the documentary. And it’s already connecting with consumers. The first week of September, when the film was released, traffic on the site spiked 500 percent.

Still, Sterne Agee analyst Sam Poser said he worries Palladium has not been assertive enough in reaching consumers with the branding message. “With the product itself, they’ve done a great job. I just don’t think there will be enough people knowing about it,” he said.

Nevertheless, Waters is pressing ahead with aggressive wholesale plans. “We’ve been pretty disciplined about keeping our distribution not too mainstream, or growing too quickly,” he said. “For us, the next step is to have big national partners and be in the mall. Right now, we’re not, but we are having conversations with department store retailers. We’re taking our first steps.”

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