Zigi Zooms Ahead With Bakers, Bebe Plans

NEW YORK — Zigi NY is expanding into new territory.

Most recently, the company, which already counted 14 brands, entered a licensing agreement with Bebe for the brand’s shoe collection. And since purchasing assets of Bakers Footwear Group in early 2013, Zigi has opened or revamped 27 stores across the U.S., plus a new e-commerce site, under the Bakers name.

“We saw 25 percent growth for 2013 and we would like to do that again this year. We feel very confident in our direction and future strategy,” said President Andy Petersen. “With the expansion of Bebe and the wholesale learning component with Bakers, I don’t know how we couldn’t [reach that goal].”

The first phase for Bakers was remerchandising the stores, which now house product from Zigi’s brands, plus Bakers’ namesake label and the more upscale Bakers Elite line. Price points range from $49 to $100. Bakers, which once had hundreds of stores, now counts 27 locations in New York, Florida, Texas and California.

“What we learn from the stores regionally allows us to react with our wholesale accounts as well. It allows us to learn what’s selling and what’s not selling,” said Petersen, who named Nordstrom, DSW and Famous Footwear as some of the company’s biggest wholesale partners. “We also test new product and price points.”

The executive plans to continue remodeling the stores and aims to open 10 to 20 additional doors over the next few years.

“There is a history behind the Bakers name, and there is a strong footprint they’ve created at malls across America. It’s important to have the consistency of their name,” said Petersen.

He noted that Zigi, which operates a store in New York’s Soho neighborhood, also intends to bow one to two additional locations of its own.

“In the long term, we would like to add Zigi stores, but we’re using the Bakers name to learn those [retail] components,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re profitable as a retailer.”

Turning to Bebe, Petersen said the company has started producing styles for three lines: Bebe, 2b and Bebe Sports, which retail for $59 to $350. (Prior to working with Zigi, Bebe had agreements with both Titan Industries and Aldo Group.)

“[Bebe’s] DNA matches the Zigi consumer. They have a very sexy and confident customer,” Petersen said.

While a new showroom and select Bebe styles launched this month for FFANY, the full rebranded and China-produced collections are set to be unveiled at August trade shows.

“Zigi is a fashion risk taker. They push the envelope on new trends, treatments and textures, while having a good balance on being saleable,” said Bebe CEO Steve Birkhold.

The deal with Bebe also will help expand Zigi’s international footprint, according to Petersen. The brand currently operates 228 storres and distributes in 26 countries.

“Bebe has strength globally. There is a strong consumer knowledge of the brand,” said Petersen. “The name [triggers] a positive reaction, so it’s positive for us to work with them.”

Looking ahead, even with a full plate, Petersen said he’s not ruling out future deals. “Bebe happened at the right time, and it added strength to our portfolio,” he said. “We make decisions based on what is the right fit for our company.”

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