The mother of two and former LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton sales executive recently introduced Shupeas, a line of soft-sole footwear that can be expanded by three sizes, extending its wearability. Her patent-pending design incorporates a decorative appliqué on the vamp that, when lifted and released, stretches the shoe’s length. A single shoe fits babies from 0 to 24 months of age, whereas most baby shoes on the market span only six-month size increments. “Just one pair of Shupeas can [take the place of] four pairs of regular baby shoes,” Harari said.
Shupeas also addresses another common problem with soft-sole shoes. Rather than using elastic, which Harari said can be too constricting or too loose at the ankle, Shupeas shoes have Velcro straps that adjust for a more comfortable, secure fit. “Having elastic around delicate ankles and [a shortage of] wiggle room around the width of the foot [can impede] proper foot development,” Harari said.
Since launching at retail last November, Shupeas has quickly built a following among children’s boutiques in the U.S. Now the brand is expanding its distribution to major retailers including Babies ’R’ Us and Amazon.com. The line features three price points: $32 for leather styles with moccasin-inspired padded bottoms; $29 for leather looks with simple suede bottoms; and $15 for vegan styles.
The early success of the shoes already has Harari thinking about broadening the Shupeas concept beyond footwear. “We want to focus on developing unique, affordable products that make life a little easier [for parents],” she said.
Here, the founder talks about breaking into the crowded baby shoe category and her plans for growing Shupeas.
What inspired you to launch Shupeas?
I first came up with the idea after receiving a popular brand [of baby shoes as a gift]. The shoes couldn’t accommodate my [then-infant] son’s chubby, growing feet. And the biggest disappointment was that he outgrew the shoes within just a couple months. This was not only inconvenient but costly. So I created the concept for shoes that can be expanded in length. [During the development process], we went through numerous prototypes to get that expandability feature right. We also [solicited the] advice of experts such as pediatricians, orthopedic surgeons and podiatrists and tested the shoes on lots of babies.
Given the competitiveness of the baby category, has it been a challenge getting retailers to try Shupeas?
It hasn’t been as difficult as we expected. The fact that our shoes are so versatile and economical sets them apart. Our plan [for growing Shupeas] continues to be very focused and structured: [We started] with boutiques and now we’re expanding to mass retailers and distributors. We actually made the decision early on to pass on a very large retail chain that loved the concept behind our shoes and offered to give us prime retail space. [We don’t want to] make the mistake of growing too quickly.
How has the economy played into the launch of Shupeas?
Many families are struggling financially, and everyone is looking for ways to cut back. At the same time, consumers today are very savvy, so it’s comforting to know that with Shupeas’ different price tiers, they can get a quality product [that fits] their desired budget.
Have you encountered resistance from retailers who say the expandable feature means they will sell fewer pairs?
We have. Although retail buyers seem to love the concept behind our shoes, a few expressed concerns about the turnover they most likely will be losing. But that thought was quickly dismissed once we explained how consumers today are savvy and know a good product and value when they see it.
What’s next for Shupeas?
We’ve already begun working on a slipper collection for kids ages 2 to 9. Wouldn’t it be great not to have to replace kids’ slippers every year? We also plan to develop other children’s products as we expand and find demand. We want to focus on unique, multipurpose products that are easy to use and economical. Our goal is to build Shupeas into a recognized global brand.