Parisian heritage shoe brand Carel — once associated with the retiree set — has found unlikely success with Millennial shoppers.
Following a redesign and repositioning — spearheaded by majority owner and chief executive officer Frédérique Picard — the label has shifted its average consumer age from 60 to 35-and-under.
The brand, now with $13 million in annual sales, has grown its international business by five times in the last year. By the end of this year, they project them to increase to $17 million.
Redesigns of the label’s stores, web site, and the revival of its classic Cuban-heeled Mary-Jane, the Kina, has drawn a new audience to Carel. Half of the label’s e-commerce sales are attributed to young American shoppers in New York and Los Angeles. The Kina has a waitlist of approximately 100 in its classic red shade.
“This very Parisian style could be a little bit old-school, but with the chic twist of the brand now, we have a very young customer — it’s funny to observe,” said Picard. “We have a very fresh spirit, the models are really tweaked to address a younger customer.”
Carel operates five stand-alone stores in France and maintains 21 wholesale accounts in its native country, as well as 25 abroad. The label is now stocked at youthful concept shops including Opening Ceremony and Totokaelo.
Picard took the helm from founder Georges Carel in 2010. The label was originally founded in 1952 in Paris’ Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. Picard is also the majority owner and ceo of Carel’s brother line for men, Carvil.
“It was kind of a sleeping beauty, it just had to be woken up.…We are a young company — the average age of the Carel team is 26,” Picard noted.
In addition to pushing a social media presence and changing its target audience, the label has also linked with emerging designers for youthful association — recent collaborations have included labels Etienne Deroeux of France and Jourden of China.
Picard attributes the brand’s success to its conservative heel heights “Now it’s a very large range of customers — they could be 18 or 40. We have a very iconic Cuban heel, it’s 1.8 inches [tall], which is important for us because its very stable and sexy — that could be very good and useful for someone young or for young mothers. It gives you the capacity of running behind a bus, of comfort in all situations. It’s important to us that you don’t have to choose between comfort and style,” said Picard.
The brand’s average price point hits at around $350 for flats and close to $500 for boots. This positioning has received optimistic feedback from buyers in the U.S., where — as previously reported by WWD — a new, mid-range accessories price point has begun to prosper.
Said Picard: “We want it remaining between luxury and middle market — it’s very important for us to have that kind of positioning. We are 100 percent made in Italy in a very small workshop with the traditional way of making shoes, we have strong credibility, and are coming from a good [price] positioning.”