In July, New York-based footwear firm White Mountain announced the launch of a new shoe collection called White Mountain Footbeds.
To get more details about the line, we sat down with company president Robert Geller at the FN Platform trade show in Las Vegas this month. Here’s what he told us:
What is White Mountain Footbeds?
“This is a new subbrand under the White Mountain parent [similar to Cliffs and Summit by White Mountain]. We’re a 37-year-old company, and it used to be that boots and booties were the biggest part of our business, but now our footbed business has just exploded. There are two styles that have been in the line for 22 years, and we’ve kept offering them. Now the market has sort of come to us. So we made a concerted effort and [grew the collection]. It’s evolved into platforms and wedges but still with the footbed built into the shoe.”
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How are you rolling it out to
“We did a running change in late May, changing [the boxes and branding], and we now have a separate part of our website for the collection. We also have a whole new distribution center that’s doing drop-ship. The line will go through the back-to-school season, and then for spring ’19 we’ll be even bigger. This is where all the social media and advertising pushes will be. What’s interesting is that we’re getting penetration in shoe stores, department stores, chain stores and now athletic stores. There’s such a crossover appeal to this product.”
What differentiates your footbed styles from other major competitors?
“Ours have all-leather uppers with natural cork bottoms — even the prints are all leather. And we’re at a $59 MSRP, instead of $119, for instance. Not only is it trend-right, but it’s a great value. We’re also in different distribution channels than, say, Birkenstock, but we share space, too. What most of the department stores have done is a three-tier, good-better-best strategy. We’ve been in that middle tier, which I’m thrilled about.”
Why create this new division?
“In casual footwear, this is driving the business. We used to be about 60 percent fall in terms of dollars. Now we’ll probably be 55-45 the other way. It’s interesting — people are asking us, ‘What are your hot back-to-school booties?’ and I point to the footbed sandals. She wants to wear it now, especially when Amazon can deliver it tomorrow. By August or so, it’s the end of sandals; time to flush them out and start over. Not anymore. People are holding their retail [prices] and making great margins.”
How much runway do you see with casual and athleisure trends?
“I’m not an expert in that sort of thing, but all the excitement lately in shoes has been driven by the athletic guys, and the closed shoe business is very difficult. There could be a lot of runway there because I don’t think that our society is going to get any more formal or dressy, or that women are going to give up comfort. They’re not going to go back to wearing uncomfortable pumps. The younger generations never wore them anyway, so why would they start now?”