At the beginning of 2021, BBC International acquired Heelys, taking the original wheeled shoe from fun experience and must-have accessory to an evolving lifestyle brand.
Considering the unique nature of Heelys, there is a lot more to come and BBC International says it believes it has only scratched the surface. Looking to the future Seth Campbell, corporate president of BBC International, and Josue Solano, chief executive officer at BBC International say that consumers can look forward to Heelys expansion into a full lifestyle brand, looking to new categories that are relevant to consumer beyond footwear.
“Heelys is the original, authentic wheeled shoe and that’s core to the brand,” said Solano. “We’ve seen how much joy that Heelys brings to our consumers and it really is a whole lifestyle. Now owning the brand we’ll be able to layer in relevant items that go along with the lifestyle.”
While the company could not disclose specific details of what is to come, the possibilities are endless with opportunities for partnerships and collaborations and a wide range of products including apparel, headwear and luggage.
For BBC International, the past decade has been marked by various licensing deals and direct acquisitions resulting in a stable of brands that is an “A” list in footwear by any measure. And with Heelys, BBC International will write the next chapter of its growth story, leveraging the brand along with its product development and footwear innovation acumen to further expand the company’s global market reach in a post-pandemic market with a full range of products that go beyond footwear.
Already, the company has been able to build up Heely’s loyal customer base and made them more accessible by putting the original wheeled shoe back on shelves at stores including Finish Line, DSW, Journey’s and Zappos, among others and Heelys.com. And lately, everyone from Justin Bieber to JoJo Siwa have been spotted wearing the shoe, effectively making Heelys the latest must-have accessory.
But celebrities aren’t the only ones wearing the original wheeled shoe. In conversation, Campbell and Solano told Footwear News that under BBC International, consumer expansion has been bolstered by putting design and collaborations that speak to today’s trends first.
Moreover, Solano said, with design now being at the forefront of the brand BBC International has effectively taken what was essentially a toy company trying to make shoes to a proper shoe brand. “It’s about the dedication to having the right product,” he said. “Our design expertise that we have brought to Heelys has enabled us to look beyond what the brand was and had done and with us its really just exploded.”
Having been Heelys’ licensee since 2013, BBC International had already experienced success with strategic collaborations and in the future, the company plans to bring on known designers to bring new style to the shoes. Additionally, BBC International secures its market position with cutting-edge designs, technology and innovation.
“What sets us apart in the market is our ability to design, develop and source unique products across footwear categories and genders,” Solano explained. “We’ve achieved worldwide recognition through a tradition of offering brands consumers want that was made by incorporating cutting-edge (and patented) technology, resulting in superior product quality. With Heelys, BBC has gone a step further by handling all marketing for the brand globally which has included TV, direct-to-consumer platforms and launching a college ambassador program.”
BBC International’s designers lead the market by not only creating fashion-forward looks but by capturing the essence of each of its brands. “There are no cutting corners,” Campbell said. “We maintain brand heritage and authenticity in everything we produce. Collaboration, innovation and design is at the heart of everything we do at BBC International. It was true when my father founded the company. And it is true today.”
Campbell said the company’s influencer collaborations “provide an even further reach across the world. These collabs provide entertaining content and global brand awareness of the original wheeled shoe.” Past collaborations include product programs with Reebok, MTV, Beavis and Butt-Head, Barbie, SpongeBob Squarepants and Marvel. Collaborations rolling out this year include Paul Frank, The Simpsons, Tommy Hilfiger, Rugrats and Star Wars.
“I think the largest thing that you can attribute to the success that we’ve had with Heelys coming from what BBC brought to the table was the variety in product,” said Campbell. “At the end of the day, in this business, it all starts and ends with the product. Our design team has created an unbelievable assortment of products that the kids want to wear and that continues to be where we invest in the business.”
Although the Heelys brand isn’t just for kids anymore. When Heelys first made its debut in the early aughts the skater shoe was a wardrobe highlight of anyone age 6 to 12. But today, as Y2K fashion continues to come back in full force consumers of all ages are getting in on the fun-loving accessory.
Supported by a robust social media marketing campaign that is buttressed by top influences, a college ambassador program and even some celebrities the brand continues to grow its target consumer base each year.
“With our collaborations, we’ve really aged up our audience,” said Solano. “The college ambassador program especially is a great voice for us. We can’t believe how many videos we see of college kids wheeling across the stage at graduation. We know that they reach the older kids and that’s great, but we’ve also seen that they’re really enjoying it. They remember loving Heelys as kids and that nostalgia has given us a large following.”
Christmas of 2019, Solano and Campbell said was a particular turning point for the brand with TikTok showing consumers how Heelys brought them adventure anytime, anywhere. And the sentiment has continued to grow year-round, especially during 2020 when due to COVID-19 and social distancing regulations left consumers wanting for fun activities. During the pandemic, Heelys sought to provide that to people and used social media to invite its global audience to participate in different contests using the hashtag #HeelysAtHome.
A few of the influencers that have shared a love of Heelys with their audiences include @CHARLIDAMELIO with over 107 million TikTok followers, @JOSHRICHARDS with over 24 million TikTok followers, 7.4 million Instagram followers ad 2.4 million YouTube followers; @BRYCEHALL with 19.6 million TiTok followers, and 7.9 million Instagram followers; and @AVANI with over 32.5 million followers on TikTok and 16.9 followers on Instagram.
Through TikTok and Instagram, Campbell said, these influencers have also reinfused the excitement around the brand. “We really see an organic interest through all of our ambassadors and other influencers who are reaching out to us to be a part of the program to get the product,” he said. “It’s fun and they enjoy it! They love the experience and that’s been really exciting for us and I think it’s helped us with respect to how we market and how we look at approaching different audiences.”
Looking ahead, BBC International is excited to bring more categories to life through Heelys that are sure to win big with fun-loving audiences on social media and beyond.