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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

OluKai Opens First Mainland Location in Irvine

While OluKai has been based in Irvine since its founding in 2005, the Hawaiian-inspired footwear maker had not operated its own OC retail store, let alone a store in the continental U.S., until this year.

The first local OluKai location opened at the Irvine Spectrum Center in February, marking the company’s store debut outside of Hawaii.

OluKai, which makes sandals, shoes, boots and golf shoes for men and women, has built up a core wholesale network in the last 20 years, with products sold in large and small specialty retailers such as REI, Nordstrom and Tommy Bahama.

In Orange County, the brand’s shoes can also be found at Shady Canyon Golf Club and the Seed People’s Market in Costa Mesa.

The company booted up a direct-to-consumer site in 2014 to spur digital sales and develop a better reach in the apparel market.

In 2019, OluKai moved to open its first pair of company-owned storefronts in Honolulu and Lahaina. With the islands’ inspiration behind its shoe design, and as the birthplace of one of the co-founders, Hawaii was chosen as the priority market to begin OluKai’s retail footprint.

Each set of shoes sold helps support its Ama OluKai Foundation, which gives back to various communities in Hawaii.

The shoemaker now operates six stores in Hawaii and has set its sights on expanding its brick-and-mortar outposts on the mainland.

California, Texas and Florida are its three largest consumer markets and are top of mind when it comes to opening more locations.

OluKai considers the stores as an opportunity to curate and control the retail experience for its consumer base. Each store includes custom artwork and specific architectural design to keep in line with the Hawaiian influence.

The physical locations allow the company to display a broader assortment of its sandals and sneakers and showcase more “premier products” such as artist collaborations and limited-edition exclusives.

As for the Irvine outpost, employees from the headquarters about 3 miles away now have a go-to spot for viewing and testing products in-market and observing consumer behavior.

Brand Portfolio

OluKai has invested in other expanding retail startups over the last several years and recently created an incubator company called Archipelago Companies to support their growth and distribution.

This portfolio now includes Roark apparel, Melin headwear and Kaenon eyewear, which are all based in OC.

All three brands work with specialty retailers as well.

Melin has been on a retail kick recently, with the luxury hatmaker opening its flagship store in Laguna Beach in 2022. It added a second location at Fashion Island last year.

Hats from Melin can be purchased at the new OluKai store.

Roark added a seventh retail hub at the Spectrum shopping center last month, next door to OluKai’s newest location. The other stores are located across California and include spots in Utah and Colorado.

These investments “reiterate OluKai’s ongoing commitment to maximizing the potential of independently owned, lifestyle brands that deliver innovative product concepts through tightly controlled distribution with best-in-class specialty retailers,” officials said in a statement.

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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