The Vida Kids group is hitting its stride.
Last summer, Wolverine World Wide Inc., owner of the Stride Rite brand, tapped New York-based Vida as its licensing partner for the storied children’s shoe brand.
Here, Brian McManus, EVP and GM of Vida Kids, shares the firm’s first steps to reinvigorate the label — plus he reveals another new licensed line due to hit shelves later this year.
Since taking over the Stride Rite license in July, what updates have you made?
“Wolverine did a nice job repositioning the brand. But there were certain things that we felt the brand still needed, so we were able to affect maybe 25 percent of the current line. We were able to add in a lot of stuff that we think will take it from a need-based to a want-based line, but not enough yet.”
What will it take to turn it into a want-based brand?
“Everything starts with product, so how do you make sure that the product continues to evolve? We’re never going to be cutting-edge trendy — that’s not what baby shoes are. But it needs to be more relevant, and it needs to be usable. Things such as shine are always great [on girls’ shoes]. And two other things have always been important in the market: lighted shoes and machine-washability. Stride Rite, to our knowledge, is the first to have a machine-washable light [in its shoes]. This brand is the original one that innovated in baby shoes, and that’s what we need to own. We need to go back to innovating.”
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How do the Stride Rite stores fit into your plans?
“We don’t own any stores — Wolverine closed all those. But we are working closely with the Stride Rite stores that are independently owned, and we see that number growing. We have a few that want to open additional doors and some accounts that want to become Stride Rite stores. Hopefully we’ll see that happen in the back half of this year or early next year. We’re also developing a new store design and working on a training program to ensure we have certified fitters. Part of the brand promise is the experience that parents have with Stride Rite. In order to do that, we need people who know what they’re doing measuring feet.”
What other initiatives is the Vida Kids group working on?
“We’re launching footwear in late September for the holiday time period [under the BCBGirls label]. We’re going after what we think BCBG is. We’re working super-close with the brand and with the apparel folks to make sure it all pulls together. But it’s about great girls’ fashion built from a kids’ shoe company. And it definitely helps us get into a part of the business that today we’re not in.”
Is your team looking to add more to the portfolio?
“Absolutely, yes. Athletics is a huge opportunity if we find an athletic brand that fits in. The partners we have are long-term. We’ve been with Carter’s for nearly 20 years. We see Stride Rite being a long-term relationship. These are the pillars that we’ll grow our business on. And every brand needs to have its own space in the market and to work into our good/better/best [retail] strategy so that we have different brands to sell to different partners in the marketplace.”