Blowfish Malibu is not just for girls anymore.
The footwear brand, which has been a division of Caleres since 2018, will launch its first boys’ collection this month, timed for the fall ’22 back-to-school season. The line debuts with six sneaker styles and will expand in spring ’23.
Scott Heitner, VP of sales for kids at Blowfish Malibu, said the brand is looking to offer casual sneaker options for boys, filling a hole in the market left behind by major athletic labels like Nike and Vans that have reduced their wholesale accounts.
“Nobody is really offering retailers casual boys’ sneakers, especially at an affordable price point,” said Heitner. (The boys’ shoes will retail for $30 to $40.)
Since Blowfish Malibu entered the kids’ market in 2016, Heitner has seen the line gain widespread adoption in the family retail channel. Current partners include Famous Footwear, Shoe Carnival, DSW, Rack Room Shoes and Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse, as well as Zappos.com.
He recalled that the turning point was when the brand unlocked its unique selling point: printed canvas girls’ sneakers.
“Our first season we did takedowns of a few women’s styles, and it was so-so. Then we started playing with florals and butterflies and tie-dyes, and it just exploded,” said Heitner. “That’s how our growth took off and now we’re in every chain out there.”
In fact, he noted 80% of its back-to-school sales are for its printed canvas sneakers. So naturally, the boys collection will take a similar path, focusing on prints like “rocket ships blasting to the moon,” while also offering a few solids to match school uniforms.
Laryssa Grant, senior buyer for kids’ at Rack Room Shoes, said the brand’s style formula has worked well in its stores. “Blowfish Malibu offers Rack Room customers cool casual product that embodies a coastal lifestyle. The product is versatile as well as fun,” she said.
While she said Rack Room has not yet picked up the boys’ line, Grant added, “We would love to have diversity added to our boys’ brand matrix giving more options for casual footwear needs.”
For Heitner, the move into this new category did present a challenge in terms of marketing. Blowfish Malibu has always had an ultra-feminine brand identity and visuals. But after seeing a positive early response from retailers, the executive decided to embrace the opportunity to evolve.
“We’ve pivoted to where we’re turning into a lifestyle brand,” said Heitner. “We’re going to change the way we market the logos and everything, so it’s not just going to be pink for girls and blue for boys — it’s going to be more gender neutral.”