Over the weekend, Crain’s reported that Bucketfeet, the maker of artist-designed footwear and one of Chicago’s more high-profile consumer startups, is abandoning its wholesale strategy. The company is cutting ties with Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s and will focus solely on a direct-to-consumer business model, selling its products exclusively via its website and brick-and-mortar locations.
Related to the shift, Bucketfeet has laid off 20 employees from its wholesale division, nearly a third of its staff, including its COO and a VP of Marketing. The company now has a team of 40 and two Chicago stores.
In 2014, Bucketfeet signed a deal with Nordstrom that brought its shoes to 48 locations, expanding its national footprint, as well as its profile within the fashion industry. But as a result of wholesale’s lengthy product cycle, a new Bucketfeet collection could take up to 12-18 months to create. Today, now that Bucketfeet owns the entire process, the company can bring a shoe from concept to product in a little over a month. As CEO and cofounder Raaja Nemani told Crain’s, “Wholesale plays against the strengths of our brand.”
This shift is important given Bucketfeet’s penchant for tying its artists’ designs into current events and movements.
For example, in December, following Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., the startup joined in the #LoveTrumpsHate social media campaign and released a new shoe in support of the effort. At the time, Nemani told Chicago Inno that “Art is a powerful platform and universal language that can bring people together, create shared understanding, and mutual respect. It’s our obligation as global citizens to use our platform to show the world that love always wins.” And now, given Bucketfeet’s new model, the startup will be able to deliver such messages even faster.
Previously, Bucketfeet raised $7.5M in February, 2015, brining its total funding to $16M. Along with its two local stores, the company is looking at adding locations in Miami and Washington, D.C.
(Image via Bucketfeet)