Van Dine and Partners plan to launch Ahnu, a new footwear brand that will make its debut with select retail partners in April of 2007.
The Ahnu brand concept will focus on performance products built around ease of use through simple one-hand adjustability.
“Intuitive technology and ease of use are expectations of consumers today. Whether you are hiking down a trail with fly rod in hand or going through airport security checkpoints, the ease of entry and adjustability of your footwear is important to convenience and performance. The Ahnu point of difference is that this convenience will extend beyond casual footwear to performance shoes as well,” stated Jacqueline Lenox, vice president of marketing.
Ahnu will launch with a collection of multi-sport water shoes, performance sandals and casual footwear. Products are targeted at retail price points of $85 to $100. In addition to its design and performance, the brand is committed to social and environmental responsibility, which will be reflected in its choice of eco-friendly materials in both the product and its packaging whenever possible.
“For us, this venture is not about getting rich, but about providing a great work environment and providing an example of a business model that is based on thoughtful responsibility rather than purely profit motives,” said Jim Van Dine, president and CEO of Ahnu. The name Ahnu is inspired from “Anu”, the Celtic goddess of well-being and prosperity, and in keeping with these traditions, the core of the brand will focus on the belief that life should be balanced, responsible, and fun.
The staff of Van Dine and Partners will disband its consulting practice to become the full time management team for Ahnu. The team provides the brand a talented and experienced management team from product conception, through launch and onto operations. In addition to Van Dine and Lenox, the management team includes Scott McGuire, Jenny Fredericks, Ed Shollenberger and Jake Brandman, all of whom offer extensive management experience in the footwear industry including successful experiences with brands such as Reebok, H.S. Trask, Birkenstock, Teva, Vans and, most recently, Keen Footwear. In addition to the teams individual skills, it has worked collectively under Van Dines leadership in the past with successful results. Ahnu also recently completed hiring a sales force to begin promoting the brand.
“A key component of our product and brand development is to work closely with important footwear retailers from different channels around the country,” said Van Dine.
Tarek Hassan of The Tannery in Cambridge, Mass., one of the leading independent footwear retailers in the country, has met with the Ahnu team and had this to say: “The Ahnu team has created a new subcategory of shoes with fresh and exciting concepts. I think consumers will be delighted by the design, detail and technology behind Ahnus products.” Fred Mossler, senior vice president of merchandising for the leading on-line footwear retailer Zappos.com added: “The product looks fantastic. In fact, I think that the brand will fill a niche that is not currently in the marketplace. We have worked with this team in the past and are extremely excited about the opportunity to work with them again.”
Based on a review of the preliminary line and Ahnus business approach, outdoor retailer REI is supporting the brands development and launch by carrying several Ahnu styles in spring 2007 and by way of a seed investment to support the companys start-up costs. REIs investment gives it a minority stake in Ahnu. A unique requirement of the investment is that any profits REI may realize above its initial investment and related administrative costs will be donated to a non-profit that has a clear mission of introducing people into the outdoors and protecting natural lands. The non-profit will be mutually agreed upon by both companies.
“We were excited by the reaction of the REI team to our brand concept and product offering, but we were really blown away when they expressed interest in helping our initial efforts. We are extremely flattered and also grateful that their investment guarantees a significant contribution to the outdoors and environment as long as we prove to be successful, of course!” stated Van Dine.
“We believe strongly that the life blood of specialty retail is innovative and unique product, and we are pleased to be in a financial position where we can help support such a strong team and concept to bring the industry exciting new product and do so in a way that benefits the natural world,” said Angela Owen, REI vice president of merchandising. “We have great respect for Jim and his team and appreciate their dedication to building a strong, exciting and enduring brand. We are also very excited with the lines that weve seen.”