In 2014, California-based Lamo Sheepskin introduced a small children’s collection under the label Oomphies (a name previously synonymous with slippers).
Mark Etzbach, CEO of Lamo, recently spoke with FN about the firm’s foray into the kids’ market and its early successes.
1. Lamo made a big play for the kids’ market when it launched Oomphies. What prompted the move?
We have offered a kids’ product range for years under our Lamo brand, so we weren’t new to the category. But we had some key trading partners ask us to make fun, casual, [non-sheepskin] children’s footwear, and that’s what got the ball rolling.
2. What niche does it fill?
Oomphies is a mix of style and value. As a father of two small children, I know how challenging it is to find attractive, everyday casual styles for an affordable price. At retail, children’s options seem to be limited to athletic footwear, sandals or injected slip-ons, especially for young boys. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on shoes because you know your kids will outgrow them quickly. At the same time, you want them to last for more than a few weeks. Oomphies bridges that gap between quality, style and value, [as retail prices cap off at $25].
3. This seems like a departure for a company specializing in sheepskin. Why go in this direction?
Lamo has a history of taking calculated risks by creating products in different categories. We are still a small enough organization with the flexibility to react to the right opportunities. Oomphies is a direct result of listening to what the market was telling us and of our openness to making the right strategic decision and executing the plan.
4. What are some highlights from the fall ’17 collection?
We are introducing several new styles, [including] high-tops for boys and girls and a duck boot. The line is still so new, but we have received so much positive feedback on our [existing] styles that our designer is working on making our most popular ones fresh for fall ’17. There are still many customers who haven’t seen the line yet, so we want to focus on what has been working well, while at the same time introducing new concepts. Expect to see great use of plaids, denim, corduroy and fun fall prints.
5. How are you expanding the business?
I can’t share exact numbers, but the sales growth since launching Oomphies is very significant — and there is still a lot of room to grow. Domestic market penetration is priority No. 1. We also are actively looking to expand Oomphies globally. We have committed to attending multiple international trade shows this year and are trying to find the right partners in numerous regions. Luckily, we spent a great deal of time last year implementing an infrastructure to accommodate growth, including a new third-party logistics partnership, systems integrations, streamlined customer service and integrated e-commerce.