When it comes to licenses, Trimfoot Co. is looking for a long-term relationship.
“We’re not interested in brands or properties that are a quick, in-and-out business. We don’t just want to go out and milk something for a year or two — that’s not how we operate,” said Steve Stroup, president of the Farmington, Mo.-based children’s firm. “We want licenses that are near or at evergreen status, that will be around for years to come.”
It’s an approach that has made Trimfoot a sought-after partner for brands seeking to enter or extend their reach within the kids’ market.
Trimfoot has a long history in the licensing business, beginning in 1948 when the company signed the very first product license with The Walt Disney Co. for a line of Mickey Mouse slippers. Other
entertainment licenses followed over the years. More recently, however, the firm has focused on working with brands rather than character properties, with a roster that now includes Eastland, Wendy Bellissimo and Butler Boot. “We’re finding that retailers are increasingly looking to brands to set themselves apart,” Stroup said.
When Eastland decided to step back into the kids’ business in 2011, the Freeport, Maine-based company turned to Trimfoot. Under a licensing agreement, Trimfoot oversees product development and sourcing for a moderately priced line of boys’ and girls’ casuals under the Eastland brand, as well as a higher-end boys’ dress collection under the Eastland 1955 Edition label that is sold by Nordstrom and a range of independents.
Jim Klein, president of Eastland, said Trimfoot’s century of experience manufacturing kids’ shoes makes the company an ideal partner. “They understand children’s footwear market trends and they focus on product quality, which are two very important factors [for us],” he said.
In the infant category, Trimfoot recently signed a license to produce shoes for California-based designer Wendy Bellissimo. A well-known name in the baby world, Bellissimo helms a growing empire of products ranging from nursery bedding and décor to apparel. “Wendy’s brand is high-fashion but affordable,” Stroup said. “This license is a great opportunity for us to expand our infants’ business even further, especially in that fashion area.”
The collection debuts in select accounts in July.
For Bellissimo, the partnership with Trimfoot has been a good fit. “For me, working with a licensee isn’t about handing over a style guide; it is truly a relationship,” she said. “I design across many categories, so having partners that can consistently execute my vision at an unmatched level of quality, value and professional integrity is a must.”
Trimfoot’s newest license is with Canadian firm Butler Boot for a line of colorful, water-resistant over-the-shoe boots. Designed for year-round wear, the stretchy TPE boots provide an insulating factor in cold temperatures and breathability in warmer weather. The boots, which will launch in stores this fall, are being manufactured domestically in Morristown, Tenn., a factor Stroup said has been a big draw for retailers. “People are increasingly looking for made-in-the-U.S. product,” he said.
Apart from its own licenses, Trimfoot’s long-standing partnership with BBC International has kept the company’s stable consistently filled with fashion brands including Sam Edelman, Guess and Polo Ralph Lauren, and entertainment properties such as Spider-Man, Barbie and Sesame Street. Trimfoot serves in a sales and distribution capacity for these labels. “It’s been a tremendous partnership for us,” Stroup said. “When it comes to design, development and sourcing in the children’s industry, BBC is second to none.”
Trimfoot benefits from having state-of-the-art warehouse facilities in Farmington that span more than 700,000 square feet. According to Stroup, “We can ship to anyone, anytime, no matter how small or large the order.”
The company also boasts a large fleet of full-time salespeople, as well as independent reps. Al Kishfy, SVP of global sales and marketing for BBC, said Trimfoot’s sales expertise is a major asset. “They have a solid, experienced team as well as strong marketing skills,” he said. “They are able to cover every segment of distribution, [from] luxury department stores and mid-tier chains to mom-and-pops.”
As Trimfoot continues to expand and diversify its business, Stroup said the company is always looking out for new opportunities, particularly in niches or overlooked areas of the market. “We also consider what’s missing in our own portfolio,” he said. “For instance, we don’t have an athletic brand.”
Still, Stroup said, continuing to grow the company’s existing business is the priority. “Right now, we’re focusing more on what we have, rather than what we don’t have,” he said. “We don’t think we’ve come close yet to reaching our full potential with any one of our brands.”