Allbirds Is Just Flat out Busy
Allbirds’ first distinctly feminine silhouette has just been released. Shannon Fitzgerald reports on the new line, a brightly-hued ballet flat called The Tree Breezer, for Fortune magazine.
The flat is constructed from an extremely light eucalyptus fibre and has the same merino wool insole and bottom sole (made from a carbon-negative sugarcane substance) as Allbirds’ other styles.
In Allbirds natural habitat – Instagram – the company, co-founded by New Zealander Tim Brown and American Joey Zillinger, has acquired some 258K followers, and regularly posts dreamy images of lambs nibbling each other’s ears and electric-hued New Zealand lakes. On 7 May, just days after launching the new line of flats, Allbirds posted a picture of three blurred-out pairs of the new flat with “BRB” superimposed on top: “Be right back! Our first batch of Tree Breezers are gone, but reinforcements are on the way!” And indeed, on their website, the shoe is sold out in all sizes and in all four colours. A call in to the company confirms there are a few pairs left in the retail locations and the flat will be fully restocked online in June.
Allbirds was launched in 2016 by Brown, a former professional soccer player, and Zwillinger, an industrial engineer who worked in biotech. Brown had raised almost $120,000 in five days in a Kickstarter campaign he launched in 2014 to produce the Runner, the woollen sneaker, envisioned to be worn sockless, “that controls odour, regulates temperature, repels water, wicks away moisture and resists stains and dirt. And, a sustainable resource!” Brown joined forces with Zwillinger soon after, opened their San Francisco headquarters and now helm a company that has nearly 200 employees.
The privately-held Allbirds has an estimated value of $1.4 billion – putting it squarely in Unicorn territory – and had $100 million in revenue in its first two years, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Allbirds is adding at least two more retail locations in 2019 and is launching in China.
NPD Group’s analyst Beth Goldstein notes that while Allbirds likely accounts for less than 1 per cent of the US footwear market, “their buzz is much bigger than that”.
Cowen analyst John Kernan, who covers industry behemoths like Nike and Adidas, said Allbirds is on their radar. “It’s a different core customer,” Kernan said, but “Nike is aware of how the consumer is viewing the topic of sustainability,” and has started to address this market with new, environmentally-friendly iterations of some of their shoes. Adds Goldstein: “Other brands are noting how much Allbirds’ premise is resonating with consumers, from a sustainability perspective, from a simplicity perspective and from a comfort perspective.”
Original article by Shannon Fitzgerald, Fortune, May 17, 2019.
Photo by Allbirds.