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Ugg Is Trying to Make a Comeback With Something Other Than Boots

attends an event introducing Hailey Baldwin for UGG Classic Street on August 23, 2016 in New York City.attends an event introducing Hailey Baldwin for UGG Classic Street on August 23, 2016 in New York City.
attends an event introducing Hailey Baldwin for UGG Classic Street on August 23, 2016 in New York City.Jamie McCarthy 2016 Getty Images

Think of an Ugg. You’re thinking of a sheepskin boot, aren’t you? The stubby brown kind that may be ugly but too cozy to resist when the temperature drops?

After a few seasons of disappointing sales, Ugg is trying to rejuvenate itself by poking into the hotter months. Last winter was a painful one for Ugg, reporting a 5.3 percent dip in sales for the quarter. In February, its parent company announced a plan for store closures and job cuts. Executives blamed the struggles on a warmer-than-normal winter.

Performance in Ugg’s sneakers and sandals categories were up a combined 20 percent year over year, executives said on a conference call Thursday. David Powers, chief executive officer of Ugg’s parent, Deckers Outdoor Corp., said its spring and summer collection had fared particularly well this year. Net sales at Ugg rose 24.9 percent for the quarter.

“This performance gives us confidence that our focus on developing compelling spring and summer product is resonating with our consumers,” said Powers. He singled out two sneaker styles as particularly encouraging, and they look little like the squat boots Ugg is known for. One, the Tye, is a simple perforated leather lace-up; the Sammy is a lightweight knit slip-on with foam inside.

Past attempts at pushing beyond the boots have had mixed results, and some have been downright bizarre. In 2011, Ugg started selling a fashion line dubbed Ugg Collection, which included ankle boots and wedges made in Italy. Last fall, it released a freaky hybrid of its shearling boot and its sister brand Teva’s sandals, with calf-high, wool-lined sides and an open toe.

An activist investor criticized Deckers management in a letter in June, calling for a sale of the company. Marcato Capital Management said it would seek to upend the entire board of directors if changes aren’t made due to Deckers’s “chronic underperformance,” according to a copy of the letter reviewed by Bloomberg.

Winter-reliant apparel companies have long tried to escape the cold—but once a label is known for bundling people up, breaking away from that can be a challenge. Over the past decade, down parka maker Canada Goose has tried expanding into other seasons a number of times, but none of its efforts has stuck. Now it’s pushing shell jackets that protect against rain and wind, not arctic chill.

Ugg, in an effort to turn things around during the wintertime, has also already revamped its classic boot, the product that makes up the largest chunk of its total sales. It released a slimmer version of the boot before coming up with the Classic II, a version of the original Ugg that’s also water- and stain-resistant.