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Vibram Is the Latest Shoe Player to Ditch an Amazon Partnership

The list of shoe-industry players parting ways with Amazon is growing.

Vibram Corp., a manufacturer of high-performance rubber soles, confirmed today that it has decided to stop selling its Vibram FiveFingers products directly to Amazon USA.

The company said the move comes as it prepares for a “major relaunch” of the line for spring 2021 and is a step that will allow it to “fully support its retail partners.” Vibram’s outsoles are used on a variety of footwear from popular brands, including Reebok and Timberland.

“This isn’t a decision we took lightly, but Vibram is a brand,” said Fabrizio Gamberini, Vibram global chief brand officer and president. “We will continue to invest in strong, distinctive partnerships for Vibram Corporation with other retailers. The yellow octagon logo is instantly recognizable around the world. Amazon might be the most visible commercial vehicle, but we are heavily investing in our brand, in key segments, and in our business partners. We’re accelerating the growth dimensions of our business with new players around the country.”

Timberland 1978 Hiker Boot
The Vibram outsole of the Timberland 1978 Hiker Boot.
CREDIT: Timberland

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Gamberini said the company made the decision this past summer. Its confirmation follows Nike’s announcement this month that it ended a two-year pilot program to sell its shoes and clothing directly on Amazon’s website.

The sportswear giant, which agreed in 2017 to sell a limited assortment of merchandise to Amazon in exchange for stricter policing of counterfeits and restrictions on unsanctioned sales of its products, said its decision to nix the partnership was part of a larger push to sell more of its footwear and apparel items directly to consumers.

In addition to trying to grow its own private label assortment, Amazon has been courting major fashion and athletic companies to sell products on its website. The e-commerce giant has seen mixed responses to those efforts, along with criticism from brands — notably Birkenstock — that suggest the e-commerce giant hasn’t done a good job of policing counterfeits on its platform.

Just this week, San Francisco-based shoe startup Allbirds penned an open letter to Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, calling out the retail giant’s private-label brand for selling a sneaker that Allbirds said shares similar features to one of its own.

In a post on Medium titled “Dear Mr. Bezos,” Allbirds co-founders Joey Zwillinger and Tim Brown wrote that the $45 Wool Blend shoes from Amazon’s 206 Collective line were “strikingly similar” to its Wool Runners, which are priced at $95.

FN has reached out to Amazon for comment.

 

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