TORONTO — Allbirds will break into the Canadian market with the launch Thursday of an English-language web site.
“We’re trying to build the brand by regions,” said cofounder Joey Zwillinger, who teamed with former New Zealand World Cup soccer player Tim Brown to launch the company in 2016. “The U.K. and Asia present big opportunities. We don’t ship to these areas yet and won’t until we can do it right. But these regions are definitely on our radar.”
Speaking of the new web site, Allbirds.ca, he said, “It’s a three-click buy here. Canadians can expect incredible service from us and rapid delivery.”
Allbirds will also unveil its five-week Pop-In@Nordstrom initiative on Friday at Toronto’s Eaton Centre and Nordstrom Pacific Center in Vancouver, where brand newcomers will be able to experience five exclusive styles, as well as a full range of products.
Lastly, a limited-edition gray wool runner embroidered with a red maple leaf will be sold exclusively on Allbirds.ca for $135 Canadian.
Canadian flagships have yet to be revealed, yet Zwillinger remains confident that Allbirds will have a physical presence in Canada within a few months’ time. Vancouver, in fact, could be one of the company’s earliest store locations. “Vancouver is all about the active life and the great outdoors, which is a perfect fit for our brand,” he said.
The San Francisco-based start-up reportedly has sold a million pairs of its wool shoes across its biggest markets, including Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and New Zealand. Yet throughout this journey, Allbirds has never once acted like an ordinary footwear company.
“No one spends money to put $5,000 suit material in a shoe, which we do. But we saw a big opportunity to change things in the footwear industry,” Zwillinger said.
In 2016, Allbirds debuted a simple, unadorned unisex sneaker made from sustainably sourced New Zealand wool — a fiber that could wick away moisture from bare feet and regulate temperatures.
That style has spawned the brand’s newest shoe launch called Tree, which is woven from eucalyptus pulp. The highly breathable sneaker also comes with shoe laces made from recycled plastic bottles, eyelets based on plant starch and insoles developed from castor beans.
“We worked for two years on this shoe and it represents a big transition for the company. But it’s indicative of where we are heading and how we want to see ourselves as material innovators,” Zwillinger said.
Such momentum has readied Allbirds for entry into its next big opportunity markets.
“Footwear today is an $80 billion industry in the U.S. and the average American buys eight pairs of shoes per person per year,” he explained. “But shoes need to catch up with fashion.”
Allbirds will one day expand beyond shoes Zwillinger predicted. “We don’t know when yet. But when that happens, just as now it will all come down to solving a design and comfort problem through innovation and great materials.”