Bedroom Athletics Embraces U.S. Market

British slipper label Bedroom Athletics has brought its cheeky name to the American market.

Launched in 2008, the collection was introduced in the U.S. on a limited basis for fall ’13, with Nordstrom, Zappos.com and Shoe Parlor in New York. The brand has since broadened distribution for fall ’14, targeting more department stores and independents. (Already a hit in the U.K., Bedroom Athletics is carried at such retailers as John Lewis and Fenwick, as well as shoe stores Treds and Office.)

Sportie LA in Los Angeles will stock the line for fall to attract young consumers who use slippers for everyday wear. “It’s a young and vibrant brand,” said Sportie LA partner Isack Fadlon. “There’s an innerwear trend going on where girls are taking slippers and booties outside. The line fits into that genre. It’s unique and has flair.”

Justin Sigal, president of Littles Shoes in Pittsburgh, agreed: “They’re cool, fun slippers.” Sigal added that he expects the label to resonate with his clientele of female students from nearby colleges.

The brand’s first test outside the U.K. was in Canada in fall ’11. Now Bedroom Athletics is distributed in more than 20 countries, including Poland, Hungary, South Africa, Australia and South Korea. Howard Wetter, founder and managing director, said the U.S. is a key focus for the firm.

“We had to ensure we had a well-balanced line, strong distributor and all our logistics in place to support the brand [in the U.S.],” said Wetter. “It represents a great opportunity and complements our international markets. Obtaining traction there will provide us with added momentum for other regions, namely Central and South America, and continued growth across Asia.”

Wetter added that overall sales for the brand increased 65 percent for 2013 over 2012, with expectations to top that this year. “Our biggest challenge to date is that we’re the new [slipper] brand and don’t have the recognition of the more-established ones,” said Wetter, noting that the label’s newer markets are all performing well. “In Israel, we have orders [for 2014] that will be two or three times bigger than a year ago.”

In the States, New York-based Shoe Parlor was the first independent to jump on board last fall. “It was an excellent line and big surprise,” said owner Abe Rogowsky, who has reordered for fall ’14.

The Shoe Market in Hingham, Mass., signed on for this fall. Women’s footwear buyer Joanna Redding noted printed booties in plaids, stripes and Icelandic patterns should do especially well. “We’ve seen growth in the category over the past few years, primarily due to the popularity of Ugg Australia and the fact that young women are wearing slippers as casual footwear,” Redding said.

Bedroom Athletics offers a competitive price point, ranging from $30 to $130. Popular items for women include the Marilyn, a short faux-fur boot with side zip; the Katy, a striped knit ballerina; and shearling and cow suede styles lined in sheepskin. For men, offerings of note include the McQueen, a short checkered sherpa fleece boot; and the Burton, a quilted nylon scuff with Thinsulate lining.

And continuing for fall ’14, Bedroom Athletics collaborated with iconic Scottish textile brand Harris Tweed on such looks as the men’s William, a shearling-lined mule; and the Pippa, a women’s driving moc.

“[The women’s business] has continued to evolve and remains the core piece of the collection,” said Wetter, noting it accounts for 80 percent of sales. “However, taking into consideration the sell-through results and overall reaction to the men’s line introduced two years ago, we’ll continue to place emphasis on it.”

Still, slippers are a seasonal business and don’t fit in every marketplace. “Indonesia and the Philippines are warm climates, so we’re limited in the business we can do there,” Wetter said.

Summer-appropriate designs could be the answer, he added. For spring ’14, the company has highlighted soft jersey linings. “We’ve had an interesting reaction to a quilted Harris Tweed driver with a jersey lining,” said Wetter. “Over the past few weeks, our bigger accounts have said they want us to put that style into the collection for autumn as well. It looks younger than the sheepskin-lined version.”

Now, the brand is working toward its next move: apparel. Over the past year, Bedroom Athletics introduced a small lounge and underwear collection. “An important piece of our ongoing strategy is to offer a complete [lifestyle] collection through standalone retail concepts,” said Wetter. “[Our] strategy is to build on the success and momentum achieved in slippers, as well as expand across relevant product categories.”

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