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Viva Vida

Footwear company vida KIDS has a clear strategy when first meeting with a prospective licensee: “Both sides need to be humble.”

Footwear company vida KIDS has a clear strategy when first meeting with a prospective licensee: “Both sides need to be humble,” explains Brian McManus, executive vice president and general manager of the New York-based licensor with seven childrenswear brands. “When you go into any conversation (and sometimes we think we know what a brand needs), we have to be humble enough to ask questions and not assume anything.”

Vida Kids has been working with childrenswear brands for 17 years and its portfolio now includes Carter’s, Oshkosh B’Gosh, Hanna Andersson, JambuKD, M.A.P. and Step & Stride.

“Really if you look at most businesses, there are two ways of doing things: service and price,” McManus says. “Way back when, when people started competing on price, we decided to focus on serving the customer.”

McManus cited Carter’s as one example of service. Vida Kids’ challenge was to create footwear that tapped into the brand’s  emotional connection with the consumer while aiding its retail clients. Limiting liabilities was one effective game plan. “We can house a lot of shoes in our warehouse,” McManus says. “If a retailer thinks they might need 10,000 pairs, but they only want 5,000 for the first delivery, we’ll take all the pairs up front. If sales exceed their expectations, we can ship right away. We can also protect them on the downside. We have a lot of relationships to liquidate goods. So it’s about service.”

For Hanna Andersson, a brand that specializes in soft materials and heirloom quality, service meant inserting memory foam into its footwear to further emphasize comfort.

Conversely, childrenswear brands come to Vida Kids for its expertise in shoe-making, ranging from molds and cutting to sizing and safety. “How many things can you be an expert in?” McManus asks. “It takes years to develop an expertise. So that helps you from a competitive advantage.”

Vida Kids’ most valuable asset just may be its exposure to consumer behavior and trends at varied levels of the market. “You learn what has sold at the higher-end and as you move it down to the middle market, you can gain more volume,” he explains. “At that level, you can’t guess.”

For fall, McManus says boots are continuing their reign, specifically toddler boots and novelty boots. In girls’, anything that shines is expected to ring the registers while, in boys’, it’s all about the third color on athletic styles. “If you are a company willing to pay attention to where the market is going and try to be there when the market arrives, you have a better opportunity,” McManus says. “If you’re trying to hold onto the way you’ve done things in the past, that’s not so good. At some point you can get stuck with the buggy whips. We don’t want to be that guy.”

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