Nike-backed Kizik to open retail stores after $20m funding – Sourcing Journal

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Hands-free sneaker innovator Kizik has announced a $20 million Series B that will fuel its physical store opening plans.

A subsidiary of adaptive shoe technology solution developer HandsFree Labs, Inc., Kizik will use the funds to launch the Kizik Kids line and open its first retail outlets. The company plans to start with a physical presence in Utah, where it is headquartered, and expects to open five locations in 2023, Kizik CEO Monte Deere told Footwear News. By the end of 2024, it plans to have 15 to 20 stores.

The funding round was led by The Newcastle Network, a consumer-focused private equity fund combining expertise in data science, creative and social media marketing.

“Hands-free footwear is what we do,” Deere said in a statement. “Kizik’s slip-on shoes provide our customers with industry-disrupting convenience and comfort, and these customers choose Kiziks as their everyday shoe. Our online sales growth is phenomenal. Kizik’s partnership with The Newcastle Network will help us grow our Kizik product and reach a wider audience.

As the name suggests, hands-free shoes are designed so that wearers do not need to use their hands to put on the shoes. This means Kizik’s sneakers work like slippers, so wearers don’t have to bend over or pull on the tongue or heel to squeeze their foot in. in a report.

The shoes, which look like traditional sneakers, usually cost between $99 and $139. They include laces in the front of the shoe that do not need to be tied once the wearer slips their foot.

The Kizik brand uses HandsFree Labs’ portfolio of over 100 secured and pending patents to create shoes for men and women designed for both comfort and style.

The label brings more new products into the mix with funding. In addition to children’s shoes, Kizik will soon launch hands-free high top shoes and Chelsea boots.

Deere said the company is profitable and expects sales to grow 300% year-over-year for 2022. Kizik expects to ship more than one million pairs of shoes this year. The company makes 95% of its sales through its direct e-commerce site, and the remaining 5% comes from Amazon.

Kizik has very strong support from Nike, with the two companies sharing an intellectual property licensing partnership. As part of the deal, Nike is using Kizik’s portfolio of hands-free shoe technologies. HandsFree Labs first received an undisclosed strategic investment from the footwear giant in November 2019.

Although it released its own hands-free shoes before the partnership, Nike discontinued the hands-free Go FlyEase sneaker last year. Neither company has explicitly stated whether the Go FlyEase is powered by HandsFree Labs technology.

The bond between the two companies was strengthened in March 2021, when Handsfree Labs brought on 30-year Nike veteran Skip Lei as chief product officer to help run the footwear business for Kizik and Handsfree Labs. . That month, Kizik secured $3 million in funding led by venture capital firm Frazier Group.

HandsFree Labs also licenses its technology to Original Footwear, which specializes in footwear for military and law enforcement personnel.

The shoe’s centerpiece of technology is its “Crushable Element”, an “aerospace-grade” titanium shell designed to immediately snug with the contoured insole and laces once someone steps into the shoe. shoe.

Although the technology is often associated with footwear adapted for people with disabilities or reduced mobility, it is also designed to help consumers who simply do not want to waste time putting on their shoes, or those who have discomfort to put on and take off their shoes in necessary situations. , such as airport TSA checkpoints.

“We were drawn to Kizik because of their unique approach to a category that is experiencing tremendous momentum, coupled with their team’s unprecedented integrity, drive and innovation,” said Chris Casgar, Managing Partner of the Newcastle Network. “Kizik offers a new level of simplicity, comfort and quality for people who don’t want to compromise total ease with great style in their everyday lives. With this new investment, Kizik has the tremendous opportunity to reshape the industry of the shoe and support more people nationwide with amazing and effortless products.

Including Kizik’s $20 million seed round, HandsFree Labs raised approximately $34 million in capital.

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