Kamik, the  Montreal-based boot maker, is celebrating its 125th anniversary of protecting feet from wet, chilly, slushy, and icy conditions. Company CEO Gillian Meek talked with SGB Executive about the company’s roots, the benefits of Canadian manufacturing, the brand’s strength in kids’ boots, and more.

Meek, previously president of Keds, took over as Kamik’s CEO in February 2022.

Can you tell us how Kamik got started, its evolution and heritage?
Kamik was founded in October 1898 on the premise that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad footwear. 125 years later, we continue to stay true to our Canadian heritage and develop timeless footwear that provides protection and comfort in any element. With sustainable practices in place for over 30 years and domestic production right here in North America, every Kamik product is made to reflect our rich history. We always have sustainability in mind from sourcing to manufacturing, down to the final product and packaging. We’re excited to continue evolving the brand in the years to come while remaining true to who we are.

What challenges does local manufacturing present or is that becoming a bigger advantage?
Kamik was born in Canada 125 years ago, and we are proud that 70 percent of Kamik’s products are still made here in North America, which not only keeps the brand close to its Canadian roots but helps reduce our carbon footprint. There are certainly various disadvantages to manufacturing locally such as general inflation and labor shortages. That being the case, the agility provided to us by manufacturing in our largest market outweighs most of these challenges. Furthermore, local manufacturing is and has always been a key differentiator for the Kamik brand. It has been a part of our DNA since the start, and this defining quality is one reason consumers look to trust Kamik again and again.

Did Kamik always have a sustainability emphasis? Can you share some further progress?
Sustainability has been part of Kamik’s DNA for a long time, with a strong focus on delivering maximum performance with minimal impact on the environment.  From production to packaging, we are continuously looking to incorporate new technologies and new environmentally friendly materials to reduce our carbon footprint even further. While several initiatives have been in place for years, we continue to add new technology to ensure we’re delivering the best for our customers. For example, in our recent Fall-Winter collection, we’ve added the use of algae-based Bloom technology that allows us to contribute to cleaner waterways by removing excess algae.

What’s driven Kamik’s success in the kids’ boots category?
Kamik has consistently been named as the #1 brand for kids’ winter boots year after year and continues to offer stylish and comfortable products that are perfect for every kid’s next big adventure. There are many factors that have been driving the success of the kid’s category, but leading the way are the parents. Today’s parents are looking to get their kids outside more and with that comes making sure they have the proper footwear to do so. Kamik helps make the process easier by providing versatile products for every adventure no matter what the weather holds.

What’s new in kids?
To leverage our historic best-sellers and timeless classics, we have introduced newness in key areas of this segment throughout our Fall/Winter 2023 collection. One new addition was to our Classic Collection with the introduction of the Snowmate kids’ winter boots. Designed to be like a reliable friend always ready for outdoor adventures, these vegan boots offer exceptional warmth, keeping little feet toasty even in frigid temperatures as low as -40°F. Other additions like the Praire 2 and the Bouncer 2, both offer new waterproof and thermal insulation technologies to provide kids with a dry and warm shoe to take on every outdoor adventure.

What other areas is Kamik seeing healthy growth or sees as untapped opportunities?
We are looking to use our expertise in the winter category to bridge the gap in the other shoulder seasons. In recent years, we noticed the new light hike trend and how there was an increase in demand for a new type of outdoor activity. We saw this as an opportunity to grow in a new market and ventured into the multisport category with the launch of our new Treklite collection offering outdoor styles for the entire family. With our North American manufacturing process in place for over 30 years, we also are continuing to grow our locally manufactured rainboots collection by introducing new styles, and innovations.

What’s next?
As we celebrate our 125th anniversary this year, we really looked inwards and outwards to reaffirm our brand identity for this milestone moment as well as the future. We have a great new product line-up for 2024 that really expresses who Kamik is, and what the brand stands for, and is sure to make news in the footwear industry.  And as we reflect on our first 125 years, we are looking ahead to the next 125 years! Innovation and consumer insights are critical. We are looking forward to building Kamik’s digital presence as we consider our website to be a unique growth opportunity. We’ve already started expanding our product offering to better reflect the contemporary needs of the families in our markets. We are also looking to deepen our relationships with our distributors and key accounts and ensure our partnerships embody our products dependability. That being said, we strive to accomplish that while staying true to who Kamik is as a brand—a brand committed to enabling families to enjoy the everyday outdoors.

Photo courtesy Kamik