P448 Unveils Its First US Store — How It Plans to Shake Up Retail

Luxury shoe brand P448 is ready to tackle brick-and-mortar in one of the biggest cities in the world. On Monday, the made-in-Italy sneaker label opened its first U.S. location, on New York’s Fifth Avenue.

The pop-up will be open for the next six months, though it was designed to turn into a long-term outpost, said CEO Wayne Kulkin.

“The difference with this pop-up is to break away from that real structured attitude toward retail,” Kulkin told FN, “to let loose and see what is new — what does a customer like, what don’t they like — and not be so focused on the actual conversion of sales. To me, it is just as important for people to physically feel the attitude of the brand as the product. I’m a believer that sales will come.”

The three-story store includes 3,000 square feet of selling space on the ground floor, a 1,000-sq.-ft. mezzanine level for DJ performances and a 1,760-sq.-ft. lower level for inventory. Finding a large space for the outpost was key for Kulkin as the launch comes amid the ongoing health pandemic.

He said, “It’s the opposite of what retailers do, especially on Fifth Avenue. You typically want the smallest store possible for productivity. But we wanted to create a place for people to hang out and make it experiential.”

Inside are arcade games, live DJs on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. It is also an environment that celebrates both New York and the brand’s Italian heritage, featuring a variety of art installations from different artists.

In addition, the opening of the store also marks the debut of P448 Threads, the brand’s new apparel collection, Frenkye, a limited line made completely out of upcycled materials; as well as its Biovegan capsule.

Though brick-and-mortar retail has been challenged throughout the pandemic, Kulkin is bullish on the brand’s latest expansion effort and plans to open similar pop-ups in Chicago and Miami.

In October, Kulkin took on full ownership of P448 through his StreetTrend LLC firm in a joint venture partnership with the financial services and brand investment firm Hilco Global, after acquiring a 30% stake in the brand from NoThanks SpA in 2018. Prior to that, Kulkin served as P448’s exclusive distributor and marketing partner for the U.S., as well as Canada, Mexico, China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

In March, he said the brand doubled its business during the pandemic and was still up 150% [digitally] in North America and up 100% in the EU during Q1 2021.

For a closer look at the New York store, click through the gallery.

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