Sole Society appears to be another victim of the 2020 recession.
On a call today with investors, Roger Rawlins, CEO of Designer Brands Inc. (the current parent company of Sole Society) announced that the label has been shut down, following drastic changes in consumer preferences for athleisure footwear over dress styles.
“To ensure our business is appropriately positioned amidst this changing environment and to provide us more flexibility to chase into various categories, we have made the recent decision to shut down Sole Society [within the Camuto Group] and focus on Vince Camuto, Jessica Simpson and Lucky, which are all tremendous brands for our company,” Rawlins said on the call.
Representatives from the company further clarified that Sole Society’s direct-to-consumer website has been shut down, but the brand will continue to serve the wholesale market through the end of this year. In total, 25 team members were impacted by the change.
Sole Society was founded in 2011 and has had a number of homes and partners over the years.
In late 2014, Aldo became its primary shoe and handbag supplier, and it received $8 million in funding the following summer from Nordstrom and Insight Partners. The investment enabled the Los Angeles-based firm to beef up its executive team and broaden distribution beyond the direct-to-consumer model. With the cash infusion, it was also able to open a 2,250-square-foot brick-and-mortar outpost at the Santa Monica Place shopping mall in California in December 2015. (The store has reportedly closed down.)
In August 2016, Camuto Group took a majority stake in Sole Society. At the time, then-Camuto Group CEO Alex Del Cielo explained that the new digital-focused buy will help the company ramp up its own e-commerce presence, as well as extend the shoe maker’s multibrand reach.
Then, in October 2018, DSW and Authentic Brands Group entered into a nearly unprecedented deal — in which the retailer and brand management firm, respectively, partnered to snap up Camuto Group. The acquisition gave DSW’s umbrella organization, Designer Brands, full control of Camuto Group’s sourcing, production, design and distribution infrastructure, along with a 40% share in the intellectual property of its brand portfolio, which includes labels such as Vince Camuto, Enzo Angiolini and Sole Society. ABG, on the other hand, was handed the remaining share of its IP and is responsible for growing and marketing the labels.
In its second-quarter financial report, Designer Brands noted that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had a drastic impact on Camuto Group’s business, as total sales fell 70.4% percent on a year-over-year basis.
CFO Jared Poff told analysts during today’s call, “The pandemic could not have come at a worse time as it relates to our integration efforts at Camuto, a preeminent dress and seasonal footwear house. First, the wholesale business remains substantially challenged given the general condition of department store customers and decreased customer demand for product categories in which Camuto has historically dominated.”
— With contributions from Samantha McDonald