While New Jersey-based Camileon Heels owner Sean Flannery didn't come up with the idea to add retractable heels to women's pumps, he's credited for the footwear technology's growing international success, as the company recently signed licensing deals in five countries while expanding its boutique and online sales footprints in the United States.
After successfully testing the market and a $450 price point two years ago with 6,000 pairs of shoes manufactured in the same Italian factories as Chanel and Gucci, Flannery purchased 100 percent of the company from Philadelphia radiologist Dr. David Handel, who came up with the convertible footwear concept after spotting business women in New York City walking to work in their sneakers to avoid the discomfort of their high-heeled shoes.
Since then, Flannery has lowered the retail price to a more palatable $150; made the shoes available for sale online and at two boutiques in Westfield and Philadelphia; and shifted manufacturing to Asia while maintaining a warehouse in New Brunswick, where he presently stores the 1,500 pairs of shoes remaining from Camileon Heels’ initial launch.
Flannery said the ultimate goal for the company is to make a Camileon heel available in every brand of shoe, so he is putting a team of investment bankers and fashion experts together to pitch licensing agreements for the technology to footwear designers and retail giants such as Jones New York and Nordstrom.
“Just like Gore-Tex material is used in almost every ski jacket in the world, with a Gore-Tex hangtag on the jackets to show it, I want our heel technology to be in every shoe,” Flannery said. “If a big footwear company has a 24-piece collection that can include three styles with a Camileon heel on it, that’s the most opportunistic partnership that I feel my company could have.”
Concurrently, Flannery is employing a similar strategy abroad by locating existing shoe distributors to market and sell the heel technology in China, Thailand, Singapore, Brazil, India and other countries where he holds patents. He is also planning to design and launch his own line of Camileon boots in 2014 that will be sold online and throughout his boutique portfolio, which he hopes to expand into eight metropolitan U.S markets outside of New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Among his various strategies to license and distribute the heel technology to grow the business, Flannery said the most important piece is quality control, which he noted would be easier to accomplish if the manufacturing operations shifted from Asia to New Jersey.
“If there were a way that I could manufacture my heels in New Jersey and make it affordable, I would love nothing more,” Flannery said. “For now, I’ll continue to ship out the heels all over the world from New Brunswick, and hopefully grow my distribution footprint in the state along with the growth of our sales.”