Slipper brand Dearfoams, a division of R.G. Barry Corp., is readying to chart a new course under the leadership of Bob Mullaney, recently named president and CEO of the Pickerington, Ohio-based parent company. Also under his direction are sister brands Baggallini and Foot Petals.
Prior to joining R.G. Barry, Mullaney was president and chief operating officer of Shoes.com [formerly Shoebuy.com]. He has also served as president of the Americas for The Rockport Co. and held positions at Stride Rite Corp. and Vida Group.
Here, the executive talks about the challenges and opportunities for the slipper brand.
As online shopping continues to grow, how will you apply your experience at Shoes.com to your new role?
“My experience in ecommerce, especially consumer feedback, will be easily translatable. The best part of e-commerce is, it [offers] a constant focus group. You’re always getting feedback — whether she liked the visuals [to her] writing reviews.”
How do you take the slipper category year-round?
“Consumer expectations of what [indoor] slippers are, [are blurring]. The wearing occasions and end use are well beyond the industry definition. Slippers can go beyond the front door. There are a lot of athletic slides living at the doorstep. [Consumers] don’t think in category definitions. We have an opportunity and are embracing it. It’s thinking outside the box.”
Where are the opportunities for slippers at the retail level?
“The biggest thing I learned is how [female consumers] interact [in-store]. It takes three seconds to get her attention. The details on the uppers become critical as opposed to a side view, [compared with] athletic shoe technology expressions that are from a profile. Our heritage is innovation and foam. The challenge for us now is, how do we make that foam come to life while looking down at the shoe?”
Who is Dearfoams’ target customer?
“She’s primarily 35-plus. The opportunity is to continue to engage her in new, fresh, fun ways. It’s about psychographics. Everyone’s mindset is younger, and they want to have a new, fresh approach to their products. Our biggest [opportunity] is, how do we get the millennial customer? College students will wear slippers outside the dorm, then inside the coziness of their rooms, they’ll wear slipper socks.”
What is the most effective way to market to consumers today?
“Great innovation and design. [We need] to modernize the brand. From there, she will tell us how she wants to be spoken to. At the end of the day, she will find us. [However], the best way is word-of-mouth or girlfriend talk. She will tell her friends. Slippers should be an emotional purchase since we’re making her life better and she’s excited about that.”
Where do men fit into the slipper business?
“The competition is not in the typical slipper brands you’d expect. There are many [slipper] definitions as long as you keep [them] easy [to wear]. Crocs is fair competition, as well as athletic and casual sandals. [Next] is foot temperature. We’ll make sure we provide some innovation in technology [in this area], since a lot of guys kick off their slippers if their feet are too hot.”
With comfort a key trend in footwear today, are there any plans for Foot Petals footcare accessories?
“No one’s feet are the same. Even with the greatest ambition to have a perfectly fitting shoe, it is an extremely high task to execute. Usually modifications will help.”
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