How Capelli New York Gained a Firm Footing in Rainboots

Capelli New York knows a thing or two about rainboots.

Since the mid-1990s, the footwear label has been a staple in the rain category, with its colorful, on-trend looks that offer stylish protection from wet weather.

“We started almost from the beginning to do rainboots — it put us on the map,” said Lina Altirs, director of footwear and handbags, who has been with the company since its early days.

A shot from a Capelli ad campaign.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

Indeed, the brand can be found in many of the biggest footwear chains in North America, including Shoe Show, Rack Room and Shoe Carnival. Heather Brynolfson, sales executive for Capelli footwear and handbags, added: “We also work with Lord & Taylor, Belk’s, the Marmaxx Group and Burlington. It ranges; we do all tiers.”

What has set Capelli New York apart has been the ability to remain on-trend. It has an in-house design team that is focused on developing key color palettes, prints and of-the-moment silhouettes to offer the customer in-demand styles. And interestingly, internal groups create all of Capelli’s prints, which are copyrighted.

A mid-cut Capelli boot.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

Altirs said the design inspiration comes from unexpected places. “We could be walking down the street and see someone wearing a cute printed dress and be inspired,” she said, “or see a new boot silhouette and think, ‘This could be a great rainboot style, too,’ then open a mold for it.”

As far as top sellers in rainboots, Brynolfson noted, “The midcalf and ankle styles are most popular, with a Chelsea boot look. We also feature a [detachable] ‘cozy lining’ so people can wear it like a winter boot.”

However, rain footwear is just a small aspect of the firm’s operations. The global Capelli New York parent company consists of several groups producing branded apparel, footwear, accessories and gear, as well as private label.

“The company has been around since 1990. We started in hair [products] and probably opened the footwear category four or five years into our existence,” said Salvatore Mancino, CFO. “Now it is our biggest division in  the company.”

Total annual revenue is about $300 million. And its footwear business — including both private label and the Capelli brand — brings in roughly $50 million in yearly sales globally.

Capelli tall boot with colorful polka dots
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

The firm offers shoes for women, children and men, with price points ranging from $10 to $60 across all types, from flip-flops to boots.

However, Mancino noted that the men’s category makes up less than 2 percent of footwear sales. That presents an opportunity for Capelli.

Altirs said, “Where we plan to grow is in our men’s footwear business and casual sneaker fashion business. In addition to that, we’re expanding our footprint both horizontally and vertically with all the retailers — with hopes to also [reach] new retailers that we haven’t worked with yet.”

Even in a tough retail market, Capelli New York reported that its footwear business is healthy. Altirs said specific styles continue to shine, especially “anything with a comfort element.”

She added, “Our customer is identifying with the comfort and reacting to it, and that’s what’s been helpful in growing our footwear sector.”

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