Surging Demand for Versatile Outdoor-to-Indoor Shoes Is Driving Big Business Gains For This Brand

When foam footwear brand Floafers launched in 2019, it found an immediate audience among outdoor enthusiasts wearing them from the dock to the boardwalk. However, the company saw sales spiked during the pandemic as the lightweight mocs resonated among consumers for their versatility and comfort features.

“The EVA mocs have so many applications that [consumers] don’t realize until they get them,” said Larry Paparo, president. “It had been an outdoor shoe for vacation, but now they’re going from the front yard to the back yard, or simply being left at the front door. They’re very lounge-like, something people have gravitated towards.”

According to Paparo, for the first six months of the year, the brand tripled its business over the whole of 2019, with the bulk of sales generated through its e-commerce site. The company, he noted, quickly shifted the focus to online sales after finding itself with excess inventory due to warehouse closures and last minute cancellations of wholesale orders.

”We had to pivot,” said Paparo, about the unexpected shift in sales to direct-to-consumer, which allows the brand to tell its full story online that includes selling points such as the the antimicrobial properties of the closed-cell foam material, a feature that has resonated with consumers during the pandemic.

As consumers increasingly turned to online shopping during the pandemic, management decided to seize the moment and pump up its social media presence through ads on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, in addition to connecting to consumers through email.

So far this year, the company has multiplied its advertising spend 10-fold over 2019, according to Daniel Rubertone, COO, which has yielded a similar return in sales. Added Paparo, “We’re increasing our spending. It’s like going to the black jack table and you keep rolling.”

Social media has allowed the brand to cast a wide net when it comes to connecting with its core customer base of adults aged 24 to 44 years old, rounded out with a growing kids’ business. “What we’ve seen is the broader audience,” said Rubertone. “Our demographic is the boat owner, yoga instructor, or mommy and me [audience].”

While the company continues to generate solid online sales, it’s committed to growing its network of wholesale accounts that includes DSW and Off Broadway in addition to outdoor specialty stores, marine shops and independent shoe stores, noting current sell-throughs of 20% to 25% a week. Some independents, noted Paparo, having been reordering 200 pairs a week.

Floafers men’s Chairman Bit moc.
CREDIT: Courtesy photo/Floafers

“Our direct-to-consumer business has taken over the majority of sales this year, but we expect it to balance out over the next year as retail opens up,” said Paparo. “[Wholesale business] has shown very good traction right now, so our goal is to continue to grow with retailers.”

Although Floafers has a focused assortment of styles built around a classic moc, it continues to generate multiple pair purchases due the wide offering of colors and patterns. Its hero shoes include the men’s Country Club Driver, the women’s Posh Driver and the kids’ Prodigy Driver.

Moving into spring ’21, the offering will be expanded to include a loafer silhouette with a bolder sneaker bottom, along with its core moc styles in additional patterns and colors. The children’s size range will be also expanded to included toddler in addition to youth sizes.

“We’ve modernized the foam space,” said Paparo, about the popularity of the brand, which found itself entering an already crowded category. “Floafers are shaped and feel like a real shoe with swing and toe spring. We also have rubber pods on the bottom making the shoes more long lasting, compared to [others] in the space with uppers and bottoms made of the same foam material. The pods also stop stress and shock [underfoot] from [being distributed], allowing the foam to bounce back when it hits the rubber. And, pods provide traction and support.”

Looking ahead, Paparo said, “We have another shipment arriving this week, and we’re still chasing [business]. We’re not sure where the plateau is at this point. There are warm climates all over the country and people are [continuing] to work from home.” All of those variables, he said, help fuel the Floafers’ fire.

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