In the words of Brian Curin, 2016 is going to be an “epic year” for Flip Flop Shops.
The president of the franchise retail chain is leading the company through a period of change. After the firm was acquired last October by Cherokee Global Brands Inc. for $12 million in cash, Flip Flop Shops is pursuing several growth initiatives for the coming year, including international expansion, new retail alliances and e-commerce.
“A lot has changed in a short time,” said Curin, who co-founded the company in 2004 and took over as president in 2007. He noted that Flip Flop Shops was looking for a partner that could accelerate its growth and found that Cherokee offered a wealth of assets, most notably partnerships with large retailers and distribution capabilities in more than 50 countries.
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Cherokee Global Brands CEO Henry Stupp said he was pleased to discover the global appeal of the flip-flop category. “It wasn’t focused particularly on warm-weather countries,” he said. “It actually works just as well in Winnipeg as it does in Honolulu. We were also delighted to see that on an annual basis, it’s not as seasonal as one might expect.”
As part of the new union, Flip Flop Shops will have access to product from the Cherokee brand portfolio, including Every California, Tony Hawk, Sideout and the Cherokee line.
Flip Flop Shops already stocks some of the top players in the category, including OluKai, Cobian, Sanuk and Reef. Curin also noted that Birkenstock has been a strong performer, and the chain recently added sport slides and sandals from Under Armour and Puma to tap into the athleisure trend.
“We carry the hottest labels and latest styles and have become the destination for those items. That’s what we’ve grown our business model on, and it’s worked quite well for us,” said Curin, adding that same-store sales grew about 3 percent in 2015.
In partnership with Cherokee Global, he plans to develop a private-label collection that could launch in spring ’17. “[We want to create something] that doesn’t compete with our other labels but fills a price point or category niche we’re not hitting right now,” said Curin.
But that doesn’t mean Flip Flop Shops is changing its merchandise model. “We’re a house of brands, and we always will be,” asserted the chain’s president. “If you look at the core labels in our shops, everybody competes at some point, but we’re very careful to protect and understand each brand’s DNA.”
The retailer’s vendors are feeling bullish on the chain after the recent acquisition.
Kerry Konrady, marketing director at OluKai, said, “We began our partnership with Flip Flop Shops during their startup phase, working closely with the founders to position OluKai as the showcase brand in the shops as they aimed to deliver the hottest and best sandals to the consumer in a beach-lifestyle atmosphere. To this day, we continue to operate at the same level of stewardship with their management team — as well as key shop owners around the country — and expect this to continue under the new ownership.”
Other initiatives in the works include opening shop-in-shops at some of Cherokee Global’s major retail partners. Flip Flop Shops also plans to make its first foray into e-commerce with a new digital platform.
Still, brick-and-mortar remains a priority for the specialty chain. Curin said the firm has 100 franchise stores in operation and 150 more in development. Flip Flop Shops has also been hiring more staff to support the franchise system.
Plus, the company is expanding internationally. “For 2016, our plan is to enter India with a key partner,” said Curin. “We’re also looking at Latin America and having discussions in parts of Asia, specifically China, the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea and Japan.”