Shoemaker Birdies Took Off During the Pandemic, But With a Few Bumps
The direct-to-consumer brand sells shoes between $85 - $140.
As high heels gathered dust during the pandemic, sales of the “stylish flat that’s secretly a slipper” soared 300% year-over-year in April 2021, CNBC reports.
But that’s only because the San Francisco company sold out of its seasonal fashion items in November. By the winter holidays, only core products were available even though Birdies had doubled its 2020 inventory to meet demand.
Co-founder and CEO of Birdies Bianca Gates says, “We were never really able to capture the tremendous upside. We learned the hard way that, in our business, you can only sell what you have.”
Gates wouldn’t divulge missed sales numbers but did say the idea for Birdies was hatched when she and co-founder Marisa Sharkey, a long-time friend, realized they needed comfortable loafers for entertaining at home.
“I had this Mr. Rogers’ moment, when he puts on his house shoes," she said.
In 2015, the two developed a prototype. In 2018, the brand skyrocketed when Meghan Markle was photographed wearing a pair of Birdies alongside Prince Harry in New Zealand. The shoe sold out and gained a 30-thousand person waiting list.
During the pandemic, Gates and Sharkey also took a step back to reflect on their brand after the death of George Floyd. Gates says they realized, “We are not just in the business of selling shoes. We are in the business of leveraging our platform for good.”
Birdies became a sponsor of a women’s soccer team, LA-based Angel City Football Club, this March. Gates also says she’s making sure the company doesn’t make the same mistake again:
“We are buying deeper and broader,” she said. “Leaning into comfortable shoes is going to stay for a very long time.”