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EMU Australia Teams with Kanner Group

The goal: to expand the brand’s North American distribution.

EMU Australia, the 76-year-old sheepskin-based brand, is currently found in 300-plus doors across North America. That includes influential retailers like Aritzia, Free People, Anthropologie, Browns, REI, and Simon’s. But EMU believes there are plenty more worthy customers out there. Thus, its new distribution agreement with Kanner Group, which counts more than 1,500 doors across its current portfolio of Gabor, Think!, and Haflinger.

Kanner’s extensive distribution is what first caught the eye of Coel Dart, international sales manager of EMU Australia. Of particular attraction is its deep independent account base. Then there’s EMU’s and Kanner’s similar traits of being family-owned businesses that partner with many family-owned stores. It is a match made in, well, shoe heaven. “With more than 500 independent retailers in Australia alone, EMU’s commitment to supporting family-run businesses remains steadfast,” Dart says. “We’re poised to leverage Kanner’s relationships, expertise, and extensive reach across North America.”

Edward Kanner, CEO of Kanner Group, sees EMU as a brand with significant untapped distribution potential. And having distributed Birkenstock in North America for decades as well as introduced Finn Comfort, Gabor, and Think! to this market, he has a track record of success. “Sheepskin footwear is a substantial business, and EMU Australia is a recognized category leader and very much on-trend,” he says. In fact, EMU’s “exceptional product” is what first caught his attention. “A core collection of superior, made-in-Australia product differentiates EMU from the competition,” Kanner says. “In a sea of sameness, it’s second to none.” As for other attractive attributes, Kanner cites Emu not being “beholden to shareholders, not solely chasing big volume, and operating with high integrity.”

As for additional attractive attributes regarding Kanner Group, Dart cites the company’s dual bases in Los Angeles and Montreal, a dedicated and experienced sales team, and participation in 30-plus tradeshows annually. “That will amplify our visibility and accessibility in previously untapped territories,” he says, adding that retailers will also benefit from Kanner’s investment in an extensive year-round stock program, ensuring rapid replenishment and sustained customer satisfaction.

The Mintaro sheepskin boot and Hume slipper are part of EMU Australia’s new premium Australian Made Collection debuting this fall.

Kanner believes the partnership marks a relaunch of sorts for EMU in North America, beginning with the Fall ’24 collection. “EMU has been successfully performing quietly under the radar for many years, and we’ll be raising brand awareness and rebuilding and strengthening partnerships with the leading independent retailers who form the heart of our business,” he says, adding, “We’re brand builders, specializing in comfort and wellness, and there’s a growing demand for high-quality, sustainably made footwear, which aligns perfectly with EMU’s values and offerings.”

Dart says the Fall ’24 collection, launching July 15, promises to captivate consumers with EMU’s signature blend of innovation, comfort, and style to elevate winter wardrobes. At the heart is its Australian Made Platinum collection, symbolizing luxury and sustainability through meticulous craftsmanship and premium sheepskin sourced from Australia. “Handcrafted with precision, each pair of Platinum boots and slippers undergoes a journey guided by over 15 skilled artisans, resulting in a product that epitomizes opulence and durability,” Dart explains. “They’re built to withstand the test of time, promising wearers a blend of luxury and longevity.” Overall, Dart says, “Our approach is more than just making footwear; it’s a lifestyle to feel good at all times, unapologetically. We call it ‘the EMU way.’”

Kanner’s team is now leading the way for EMU in North America. He is confident that the right strategy and execution will see EMU flourish, capturing market share and becoming a go-to brand for premium natural footwear and accessories. “EMU’s unique positioning as a purveyor of Australian-made products resonates with discerning consumers seeking authenticity and craftsmanship,” Kanner says. “We’re excited to bring it into our portfolio of premium brands.” —Greg Dutter

The March 2024 Issue

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