Finland’s Reima Brand Wants to Help More Kids in the US and Canada Get Outdoors

There’s no bad weather, only bad gear.

That’s the mantra of Finland-based brand Reima (pronounced “ray-ma”), which has been helping kids enjoy the outdoors for more than 75 years, since the founders first recycled old World War II uniforms into coats for children. Today, it offers a year-round collection of outerwear, apparel and footwear for kids ages 0 to 14, that is meant to handle everything nature can throw at it, from summer heat to rain to cold and snow.

Now, Reima’s latest challenge is to make inroads in the North American market.

The kids’ brand entered Canada first in 2018, followed by its entry to the U.S. in 2019, and it has quickly built up a strong retail roster, according to Todd Starcevich, head of North America for Reima. “In the U.S., we have REI, Backcountry, Zappos and a lot of great partnerships with ski resort operators, like the Vail Resorts and the Christy Sports ski shops. We also have amazing boutiques like Yellow Turtle in Stowe, Vt. And in Canada, we have partnerships with MEC [Mountain Equipment Company] and Altitude Sports.”

Starcevich said that to continue to build the business, he’s looking to forge more relationships with outdoor specialty stores and regional players. He also sees opportunity to branch out geographically.

Currently, in North America, Reima has its largest representation in the eastern part of Canada and in the top two corners of the U.S., according to Starcevich. “But with our all-season approach, it means we can show up in big ways across the colder states in the U.S. and across Canada, but then also establish ourselves as a great brand for kids in the warmer states across the South. We know we have some great opportunities out there, especially in the northern Great Lakes, the northern Midwest, across the Rockies and on the Pacific coastline,” he said.

In addition to wholesale, Reima also operates its own e-commerce site in North America, as well as an Amazon business. Starcevich said revenue is split evenly now between digital and brick-and-mortar, but he expects wholesale to eventually make up 60% of sales in North America as the brand becomes more established.

“Having this high-quality, highly technical design factor — and the dedication to the child — helps [our retailers] fill in some interesting space on the floor and tell some really unique stories,” he said of the brand’s selling points.

Reima Patter Waterproof Kids Sneakers
Reima’s Patter waterproof high-top sneakers feature easy-to-use Velcro closures.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Reima

Another advantage for Reima is its majority-female global leadership team, led by CEO Elina Björklund, who has been with the company for a decade. Starcevich said that having women at the helm strengthens the brand’s family-focused culture, which resonates with its retail partners and customers.

Another key aspect of its culture is fostering a relationship with nature. “There’s a reason why Finland is one of the happiest countries on the planet,” he said. “A lot of that has to do with this joy of being outdoors, and that’s what has really come through in the brand.”

When it comes to product, Reima has a clear expertise for cold, wind and rain, thanks to its Scandinavian origins, and that plays out in its sales. Rucky Zambrano, category manager of shoes, said that some of its best-selling footwear styles including the Passo, Patter and Wetter waterproof high-top sneakers (retailing for $70 to $85) and its Ankles short rain boot ($45). And for the warmer months, its Lean pull-on water shoe ($35) has taken off as well.

Reima Ankles Kids Rain Boot
Reima’s Ankles kids’ rain boot.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Reima

Zambrano — who helped develop the Vibram FiveFingers shoes more than a decade ago — said that heading into spring ’23, Reima will introduce styles with more of a barefoot feel. “In Finland and Germany and Switzerland, you see the barefoot families everywhere,” he said. “It’s not for everyone, but we are inclusive. We don’t want to exclude the customers.”

Zambrano noted that all of Reima’s footwear is crafted specifically for children’s feet at every stage of development, with flexible soles, ample toe boxes and easy Velcro fastenings. The product team also adds extra protective details to keep out rain and cold.

And sustainability is a major consideration as well, tying back to Reima’s origins in recycling. Zambrano said that all of the footwear is free of PFCs (a class of toxic fluorinated chemicals that don’t break down in the environment). And by 2023, the conpany has set a goal for 100% of the cotton used in its products to be certified organic and for half of the polyester fabrics to be at least 50% recycled.

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