The Shoe Box has an updated look, following its buyback by its original owners.
Sean Kirschenbaum, president, along with his brother, Blake, and father, Richard, reacquired the business from the Camuto Group in early 2016. Since then, the three have been working on converting certain stores back to The Shoe Box nameplate, updating the store concept and transitioning out of purely Vince Camuto product. There are currently six East Coast locations: Upper East Side at 77 Street and Third Avenue; Flatiron District on Fifth Avenue and 19 Street, Murray Hill at 36 Street and Third Avenue; the Americana Manhasset upscale shopping center; Plainview, on Long Island and in Boca Raton, Fla. The average square footage of the stores is around 1,800 square feet.
While The Shoe Box retail concept was founded in 1954, the family’s history in the footwear industry dates back to 1948. That’s when Kirschenbaum’s grandfather Louis — Richard’s father — opened a children’s shoe store on Long Island that was a Buster Brown franchise. According to Sean, when Richard entered the business in the Seventies, he decided the store should include women’s footwear. Kirschenbaum said his grandfather said to his dad, “You’re crazy. We’d never sell women’s shoes. It is a kids’ store. But the product came in and sold out within two weeks. Dad expanded the women’s footprint in the store and it became a multibranded footwear destination.”
In the Eighties, the company expanded to include a second location at the Americana Manhasset Mall, and subsequently other locations followed.
“We were known for having unique product that no one else had. In 2011, Vince Camuto approached us about expanding his retail presence. He was looking for a retailer to help him launch his retail presence, so we partnered up with him and began opening stores under the Vince Camuto name. The Shoe Box stores were converted to Vince Camuto stores. That lasted until early 2016 when we decided to relaunch Shoe Box,” Kirschenbaum said.
The Shoe Box trademarks and other intellectual property assets were originally acquired in November 2007 by NexCen Brands Inc., in partnership with the Camuto Group for $1.3 million. The Kirschenbaum family was involved with the business as the new owners grew the franchise concept. NexCen subsequently sold its different franchise businesses in 2010, and Camuto took charge of the Shoe Box assets.
Brands available at the footwear retailer include Rag & Bone, Sergio Rossi, Jimmy Choo, Vince and Opening Ceremony. There is also a small section for apparel and accessories. According to Kirschenbaum, “Sneakers are a big business for us, and we carry a lot of unknown Italian brands not available anywhere else.” He added that the trend for sneakers means that the ath-leisure category is not likely to abate anytime soon, despite what some naysayers might think.
“We really see a trend away from the dress shoe business, and vendors and brands are trying to react to the casual trends,” Kirschenbaum said.
Average price points start at $250, and can go as high as $1,200 to $1,500, depending on the item. The sweet spot is between the $300 to $500 price range. Currently, the merchandise is just women’s, whether footwear or for its small edited selection of apparel and accessories, although Kirschenbaum said the company would likely test a few men’s sneaker brands in the near future. He added, “We’d probably do a test rollout in our two flagship sites at the Americana and at the Flatiron District, and online.”