Duty Shoe Stores Are Still Open During the Pandemic to Help Health Care Workers Stay Safe

Health care professionals battling the coronavirus pandemic require the proper gear head to toe. To serve this growing workforce, many uniform shops that sell scrubs and slip-resistant duty shoes are keeping their doors open.

Storeowners report that traffic has been modest, though, despite the increased need during the health crisis. They noted that nurses, often too busy to shop, are increasingly turning to the internet for their footwear purchases.

At A-1 Uniforms in Coralville, Iowa, sales associate Kaitlyn Howieson said sales have been slow. “We haven’t seen as much business as I anticipated over the past two weeks [March 23 – April 6 ],” she said. “We’ve probably done about half or less than normal. And it’s not shoes that are [selling] so much as scrubs, caps and face masks.”

Scrubs have also been a key item at Angelwear Scrubs in Oklahoma City, Okla., according to owner Laurie Clodfelter. “I don’t think [medical workers] are thinking about shoes,“ she said. “It seems a lot of places in the state don’t require special footwear.”

Karen Dates, manager at Uniforms Etc., in Overland Park, Kan., said the store has seen some traffic, mainly from retirees reentering the workforce during the crisis who require new gear. “We had a couple people coming in for shoes, but mainly scrubs,” she said.

Business, however, has been steady in the New York metropolitan area, which has become the global epicenter of the pandemic.

Eatontown, N.J.-based Life Uniform (owned by national chain Scrubs & Beyond) has seen a slight uptick in both footwear and scrub sales, according to manager Samantha Manaco. “We’re seeing a lot of new faces because we’re the only store open in the area,” she said, noting that the store had a visit from a nurse from Colorado who came to assist staff in a New York hospital. “Everybody’s grabbing what they can since they don’t know when they’re going to get out of hospitals again.”

Like Manaco, Amanda Johnson, sales associate at Life Uniform in Carle Place, N.Y., has seen medical workers from states including Texas, North Carolina and Florida at the store. “They’re buying everything,” she said, including shoes and scrubs.

A number of duty shoe brands told FN they’re seeing an uptick in e-commerce sales, as more health care workers opt for the safety and convenience of shopping online.

Klogs Footwear said its e-commerce business has been strong, according to Matt Dieckhaus, VP of sales and marketing. And he said the brand expects to see increased demand for its clogs due to their cleaning ease, a key issue for today’s health care workforce.

Nurse Mates has also seen steady to strong sales, according to LizMarie Flores, creative marketing director for parent company Sofft Shoe Co. The brand is currently running promotions that include a 25% discount on purchases of $60 or more. “We’ve tried to cater to our demographic of medical workers since they’re the front-line responders right now,” she said. In addition, Nurse Mates is helping to promote the stores that are still open and selling its shoes, by posting their names on social media.

Although clog brand Sanita reported an initial slowdown in sales at the start of the coronavirus crisis in mid-March, business picked up in early April on its e-commerce site, and among with its e-tail partners, according to Matthew Tracy, president of Sanita USA/M. Leonard International.

Looking ahead, Tracy predicts a post-crisis turnaround in both online and brick-and-mortar sales. “On the back-end of this situation, there will be [workers] out there who want to reward themselves with some nice things and we might see a boost then,” he said.

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