P448 Is Winning in a Competitive High-End Sneaker Market: Here’s How

Italian sneaker brand P448 is betting on brick and mortar.

After launching its first U.S. location on New York’s Fifth Avenue in August, the brand is in the midst of a growth spurt.

Next up, the high-end label is opening in Paris following its latest store launch in Miami over the holidays.

“Our strategy is to pick locations and cities that have exposure to global and domestic tourists. We want to reach as many customers as possible, taking into account COVID-19 restrictions. And if our customers and the new consumers we want to reach are comfortable traveling during this time period, it will certainly be to NYC, Miami and Paris,” CEO Wayne Kulkin told FN.

p448 sneakers, miami store
Inside P448’s Miami store.
CREDIT: Courtesy of P448

Meanwhile, P448 has moved up the street in New York. Despite the fact that international travel restrictions were in place during most of pop-up’s run, the outpost was a success. So much so, Kulkin signed a new lease on Fifth Avenue, five doors North.

“The store created a different perception of our brand and showcased the brand DNA that makes P448 so special. Customers absolutely loved the interactive cash wrap where they could tag part of the store after purchasing their very own pair of P448 sneakers. At the end of our time in this space, the cash wrap was completely filled up. This is just one example of how the store supports the brand’s concept of creating a new form of retail that delves into interactive experiences on-site,” he added.

p448, new york, store
Inside P448’s New York pop-up store.
CREDIT: Courtesy of P448

With each location, Kulkin is able to learn more about his growing audience, noting that male customers were visiting the New York store and they expressed interest in traditional women’s focused styles. “That brought on the evolution of a new, evergreen genderless shopping program that we’re looking to launch in the coming months. This collection will be as inclusive as possible, with sizes ranging from 35 to 50 EU,” said Kulkin.

P448 is also expanding beyond footwear. The brand officially launched apparel for fall with a range of loungewear in September. Called P448 Threads, the collection includes unisex crewnecks ($120) and hooded sweatshirts ($130), as well as matching pants ($120) in a neutral colorways, such as milk stone grey and black.

p448 threads, apparel
P448’s apparel line is made in Italy.
CREDIT: Courtesy of P448

Going forward, P448 plans to strategically execute 12-to-24-month agreements before moving to the next city.

Last year, the company doubled its business during the pandemic, growing 50% in North America and achieving 20% growth in Europe. P448 also launched in China, with openings planned in Korea, South America and Mexico in 2022.

Wholesale is still a major focus for the brand’s overall business strategy, with very strong growth for independent retailers around the world, Kulkin noted, and in key department store accounts such as Nordstrom.

Tacey Powers, EVP and general merchandise manager for shoes at Nordstrom, said the brand is resonating with a younger consumer who is trend-conscious. She said, “P448 pushes the boundaries of fashion by creating timeless, innovative pieces that bring street trends to life. Their use of material, color and quality helps them standout from other brands in the luxury sneaker market. On top of their product, they are huge advocators for sustainability.”

P448 specializes in sneakers for men and women, with a $275-to-$325 price point and a sustainability mindset. Currently, P448 offers sneakers made from Re:new leather, which reduces environmental impact by 80%; as well as a vegan line; and its Recycled Suede Collection. The regenerated suede is achieved using the chrome-free tanning method that reduces the amount of harmful chemicals used during the production process. This eco-sustainable process reduces water consumption by 67%, uses 29% less chemicals and cuts the CO2 emissions in half compared to standard tanning processes.

Kulkin broke down the business into three buckets: 35% wholesale, 40% digital, and 25% P448 brick-and-mortar, globally.

In 2020, 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.

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