Unlike many brands, Birdies has fared well during these uncertain times. The San Francisco-based company, which was founded in 2015, built a business around shoes that were made for inside the home. And at a time when “at-home” has become the new normal due to coronavrius restrictions, Birdies has taken advantage.
“There’s so much organic interest in our brand,” said co-founder and CEO Bianca Gates. “In some ways we were ahead of our time by building community at home. Out of the gate, it was a good launch [but] now, a bigger spotlight has been cast on what we are doing and the problems we are solving.”
Since the pandemic hit, there has been 200% increase in Birdies’ slides business, which was one indicator that dressing up at home while maintaining comfort has been important to consumers.
According to NPD’s Retail Tracking Service, slipper sales in April — usually the category’s off season — nearly doubled compared to last year. “I’ve long felt there’s opportunity for a more year-round slipper business, and we’re now potentially seeing that come to fruition. This has been driven by circumstances we couldn’t have predicted, but this could continue as work from home arrangements are extended or become permanent,” Beth Goldstein, industry analyst, fashion footwear and accessories for the NPD Group said.
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While COVID-19 has impacted most companies in terms of store closures and wholesale disruptions, Birdies has focused on bolstering its relationship with consumers. According to the label, which was able to keep its staff employed during the time, engagement grew over 400% since the pandemic hit and that was with a pulled marketing spend. Plus, Birdies is seeing both new consumers and repeat purchases.
In addition, shoppers have continued to turn to e-commerce, proving that the brand’s DTC strategy is solid.
Gates, who co-founded the brand with president Marisa Sharkey, believes that more companies will go direct as a result of COVID-19 impacts.
“There’s going to be a massive shift … with the consumer faster than we expected, and with that comes a lot great benefits,” she explained. “There is no more guessing, so I don’t have to produce 30 shoes and hope that one or two are a hit. We are letting our customer tell us exactly what they want and how they want us to evolve, there is very little waste because of it and we design for their needs.”
While Birdies began as an indoor shoe brand it has grown to offer a range of outdoor-use styles as well, including stylish flats, slides and sandals, featuring its 7-layer comfort technology.
Today, the label expanded its assortment with the launch of a woven line of its signature Starling flat slippers using woven vegan leather.
Retailing for $140 and available in four colorways including silver, white, cognac and black, this style is ideal for summer weather, inside and out of the home.
“We are in a really good position,” said Gates. “And it is not about asking, ‘How do we survive?’ It’s more about looking further into the future and growing our business in ways that weren’t top of mind six months ago. We are rethinking everything and that’s exciting but I recognize that’s not the same for everyone.”
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