Allbirds on Tuesday took a leap into performance footwear with the launch of its first running shoe, dubbed the "Dasher," according to a press release emailed to Retail Dive.
The shoes are "powered by the sun, rain and soil," made with materials like sugarcane, eucalyptus and merino wool. The retailer stated that the materials the shoe is made out of "have the potential to suck more carbon out of the atmosphere than they take to produce."
The shoes are priced at $125, available for both men and women, and come in four initial colorways. The DTC brand said it has tested the shoes on "thousands of miles" by over 50 athletes, amateur and professional.
Allbirds may still be operating in the footwear space, but the DTC brand is hinting at broader ambitions with the launch of performance footwear.
Last summer, the brand introduced its first non-footwear product, a line of socks dubbed "Trino," but the company has been broadening its product base piece by piece over the past few years, expanding outside of its core Wool Runners to offer more shoe styles, including flats, high-top runners, slip-on "loungers" and others.
Up until this point, however, the brand has stuck squarely within the everyday shoe space. The Dasher pushes Allbirds into athletics territory, to compete with the likes of Nike, Adidas and Lululemon, as well as performance footwear specialists like Brooks Running. While performance athletics has had its challenges over the years, dabbling in the space also opens the door for Allbirds to get in on the lucrative athleisure market.
For now, the step provides Allbirds with another stream of income at a particularly challenging time for DTC companies, as startups and small businesses struggle to stay financially healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. The move mirrors those that other DTC brands have made to expand their own product base, including the likes of Away and Casper, which has steadily grown beyond mattresses to sheets, smart nightlights and even CBD gummies.
The pandemic also makes it a challenging time to be launching a new product, though. March athletic footwear sales were down by 40%, and running footwear dropped in the mid-teens in Q1, according to The NPD Group.
In line with Allbirds' ethos, the new product carries on its push for sustainable materials and manufacturing, something that's a part of every item the brand produces. At a store opening event in early March, co-founder Joey Zwillinger told Retail Dive that the company counts the carbon emissions of every component of the products it makes and purchases carbon offsets to mitigate that impact.
"We create kind of a financial incentive to drive down the emissions that we make," he told Retail Dive. "I think if you don't measure it, you're never going to be able to reduce it. And if you don't put in place the financial structure to hold yourself accountable, then people will let you get off the hook and you'll devolve to what people generally do, which is just cost and speed."