WalkingCo Relaunches Its Abeo Comfort Brand With Plans to Open It Up to Wholesale

A popular name in comfort has a new look — and could soon find its way into stores again.

The Abeo footwear brand was relaunched this month by parent company WalkingCo (the multibrand retailer formerly known as The Walking Company) with a product overhaul, branding refresh and comprehensive digital experience update.

The move comes after several years of upheaval at the company.

The Walking Company emerged from bankruptcy in 2018. However, amid the challenges of the COVID-19 shutdowns, it struggled to maintain its mainly brick-and-mortar business and was acquired out of auction two years ago by a group of investors led by Richard Kayne. The new ownership, operating under the entity WalkingCo LLC, subsequently closed the retailer’s 185 stores and shifted to an online-only sales model, though it continued to produce the Abeo collection.

Abeo Lily cork footbed sandal spring 2023
Abeo Lily cork sandal with premium foam padded footbed and adjustable straps.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Abeo

This Abeo revamp was overseen by WalkingCo president and COO Tim Callahan, a shoe industry veteran whose background includes stints at Schwartz & Benjamin, Global Brands Group and Titan Industries. He joined the company in late 2021 and was tasked with modernizing the design and enhancing the quality and performance of the line.

Abeo had been a strong performer for The Walking Company since it first debuted in 2010. In fact, in 2014, the company told FN it brought in $80 million in sales. And the following year, it was on such a hot streak that Abeo opened its own retail concept and signed celebrity chef Anne Burrell as an ambassador.

Callahan explained that the brand lost some of its footing because it didn’t have a distinct look and it failed to innovate. “As The Walking Company had its financial issues, they took a lot out of the product, which a lot of people unfortunately do to cut costs,” he said.

By contrast, he brought in a new design team whose job was to put back in the bells and whistles. “We wanted to improve the technology with where the world has caught up to today,” Callahan said. “And we were looking at finding the best materials to offer the customer an amazing value.”

Abeo Blake espadrille slip-on spring 2023
Abeo Blake espadrille slip-on with removable cushioned insole with arch support.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Abeo

The spring ’23 men’s and women’s offering includes 80% new styles with Abeo’s longtime B.I.O. orthotic system, which is designed to support, align and balance the body while reducing stress on joints. Key attributes of the shoes include deep heel cups, arch supports, optional metatarsal pads and wider cushioned toe boxes. Additionally, the brand focused on using leathers that are water-resistant or water-repellant, and many of the shoes are machine-washable.

Retail prices range from $59 to $180 for the spring collection, which is produced in China, Vietnam and Brazil. “We were trying to stay within the existing price structure of where Abeo has been,” said Callahan. “And for that price, it’s hard to find the quality of the materials that we put into the shoe.”

Callahan described the look of the collection as classic and minimalist, but highly versatile. “Any woman could wear them and they fit into her lifestyle, but also solve a lot of her foot pain issues,” he said. He noted that Abeo and WalkingCo’s target audience is a 40-plus working or retired customer who has an awareness and interest in foot health.

Abeo Cora cork wedge sandal spring 2023
Abeo Cora cork wedge sandal with adjustable instep and forestep straps, and a built-in orthotic footbed.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Abeo

Abeo is currently available exclusively on the WalkingCo e-commerce site, but Callahan said the reaction in the industry has been so encouraging that the company has hired a sales executive to begin establishing wholesale partnerships for the brand.

“We’ll be very careful with where it goes,” he said. “I see it as top-tier department store business, but more driven by independents because the independents really know how to sell the shoes and understand the quality of what the shoes are. And it adds a lot to us. Because we no longer have a brick-and-mortar position, to give the customer the ability to touch and feel the shoes would be important for us.”

The timing for that move is still unclear as the company must adjust its production from a DTC schedule to match the wholesale calendar. But Callahan said he does aim to present the collection at the next round of trade shows in August.

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