It wouldn’t be unheard of for an ugly shoe to become a fashion statement.
It’s happened before.
Scott Seamans, a co-founder and designer at Crocs Inc., and John Duerden, former president and COO of Reebok, have moved their five-year-old shoe company, SoftScience, to Denver.
SoftScience offers a collection of shoes made for water activities. Early feedback on the first shoe design was that it was comfortable and met the needs of people doing water activities.
“Shoe retailers told us they loved the shoe and the way it felt. But it was ugly,” said Kevin Lamar, who was a consultant and distributor for Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX) and is now CEO of the new shoe company.
Seamans started Crocs in 2002 with co-founders Lyndon Hanson and George Boedecker, even though he thought the prototype of the boating shoe was ugly. Crocs, which is based in Niwot, went public in 2006 and last year did $1 billion in annual sales, according to its January presentation to investors.
Seamans, who is no longer with Crocs, didn’t think he would ever be in the shoe business again.
“He couldn’t help himself,” Lamar said.
Seamans came up with a new material he calls trileon. The material is used for the inside and outside soles of his new boating shoe. The company claims the material allows no micro-organisms or bacteria in.
The shoes have water drains and level heels, rather than raised heels, which were popular a few years ago. It’s lightweight — it can float. And anyone with foot problems will find the shoes comfortable, Lamar said.
There are competitors in the water-activities space — Columbia, Simms, and Under Armour to name a few.
“The difference in us is our materials,” Lamar said. “The most guarded secret in the company is what the materials are made of.”
The company elected not to file a patent so as not to reveal its formula, Lamar said.
SoftScience started in 2013 in Oceanside, California, and tried to market itself to podiatrists. But that went nowhere, Lamar said.
Then, the company decided to take a page from the Crocs business model and took the shoes to the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show — where Crocs were first introduced. SoftScience sold 400 pairs of shoes – similar to Crocs debut sales, Lamar said.
Then, again following the Crocs model, the company put the shoes in kiosks inside malls. Today, the SoftScience shoes are in about 100 stores across the country – still hardly making a dent in the $230 million water sports shoe sector or the $42 billion shoe category.
Eight months ago, the company moved its headquarters into a 60,000-square-foot warehouse in Denver. It did about $5 million in sales last year. But now sees business growth promise in a new line of shoes it will launch this year — it’s going after the women’s comfort category.
They call it "athleisure," a slip-on shoe that comes in colors like purple and royal blue. And they are trying to strike deals with department stores for shelf space.
"Given the indications and feedback we are getting compared to where Crocs was, we could pass that," Lamar said.
It wouldn’t be unheard of.
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