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NEW YORK — Ugg it turning its focus to the middle-school customer.

This story first appeared in the July 1, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company is hoping to build off the momentum of a successful 2013 fiscal year, where brand sales increased 9.7 percent, with its first stand-alone secondary brand. Named I Heart Ugg, the new label is aimed at the female tween consumer, defined as girls between the age of nine and 13. “We wanted to give [this customer] an exclusive product,” said president Connie Rishwain. “It will definitely look different than the Ugg line, but it will have the DNA. This gives her her own identity.”

The initial I Heart Ugg collection for fall will include boots, moccasins and slippers done in an array of colors and prints. Distinct design elements include an I Heart Ugg logo heel plate, a red heart rivet, unique stitching and, on select boots, a cell phone pocket. Prices will be lower than the main line, with opening price points at $79.95, with the most expensive boot at about $160.

The brand will also include loungewear, accessories and handbag offerings. “It’s a great way to get that customer for life,” said Rishwain. “They can enter through I Heart Ugg, and once they outgrow it, they can go to the main line. We wanted to give [this customer] an exclusive product. The market potential is huge.” Rishwain cited the U.S. tween market to be about $200 billion, with $43 billion of that total being exclusive purchases versus those bought by parents, etc. The three most popular categories for tween spending, according to Rishwain, are video games, apparel and shoes.

Ugg aims to tap into a larger international consumer base through the brand as well. “We are primarily a domestic brand, but international is the fastest-growing segment,” said Rishwain. “Japan and China are our fastest-growing [markets].…We think the product might skew older in Asia, the way that Hello Kitty skews to an older consumer there than it does here. So, it might be 17- to 25-year-old there.” To ensure the new line reaches tweens through all channels, Ugg will embark on an expansive marketing plan that includes a stand-alone site, iheartugg.com, and a digital and print ad campaign.

I Heart Ugg will also get the retail treatment with two dedicated brick-and-mortar locations in Waikiki, Hawaii, and San Francisco. Both stores are slated to open in September. “Our current store in Waikiki is one of our top-volume stores,” explained Rishwain. “The location gives an amazing tourist business from both Asia and the U.S., and we’ll be able to get a really good read on the brand. In San Francisco, our store now is one block away from Union Square. Then, a location popped up in Center City that was perfect. The opportunity was there, so we took it.”

Locations in New York and Las Vegas are being scouted for a 2015 opening. In addition to the dedicated stores, I Heart Ugg will be available at Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Zappos.com and select Ugg stores beginning July 14.

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