Americans continue to spend more time at home as the COVID-19 crisis rages on, sparking a renewed interest in slippers. These comfort-driven at-home looks are driving business for MukLuks, with its offering of novelty looks that span the seasons.
Here, Mark Blutstein, CEO of parent company Reliable Knitting Works talks about consumers’ appetite for its MukLuks slippers as they relax and work from their city apartments to their country houses.
As Americans spend more time indoors due to COVID-19, what’s been the impact on your slipper business?
“Our season was extended due to the brick-and-mortar stores that remained open, as well as e-commerce retailers who kept our products online. Typically, MukLuk’s cold-weather products, including [slippers and accessories], are off the minds of consumers at the end of March, but I was helping pick and pack boots, cabin socks and headwear well into mid-April. For example, we had 3,500 online orders, compared with 700 last year, for the weekend of June 19.”
Will the momentum continue?
“From what we’re hearing from our retailers, slippers are definitely part of the mix. The GMMs and DMMs have been the first ones allowed to spend money [as retail opens] for slippers and accessories like ours. They’re starting to write orders [since] their pens have been dormant for the last three months. We’re one of the first they’re reaching out to because the slipper category was hot, becoming [more] popular as people stayed home.”
Slippers have traditionally been a fall product. How does MukLuks successfully take the category year-round?
“Lately, the coldest months of the year are January, February and March, and we know the brick-and-mortar retailers want slippers off the shelves by January 1. Our thought is to spend some co-op dollars with our online partners in January to keep sales going when people are actually looking for something to keep their feet warm rather than a swimsuit. We also have a spring line that has primarily been sold through e-commerce channels. Surprisingly, this year when stores opened up, many had canceled orders and were left looking for inventory. We were able to sell items we had in stock. These buyers liked what they saw and we now have incredible interest for 2021.”
How are you working with retailers to promote the slipper category?
“That’s my biggest challenge as a fourth- generation family-owned company. When I’m on a sales call or talking to a customer at a trade show, I always ask how do they think we can best market ourselves and the answers are always different. Some say, ‘Save that money and give us the best price, and that will sell your product.’ Others say, ‘Use social media,’ while others add, ‘Give us co-op dollars and we will promote you through our website.’ I wish I could satisfy everybody, but I pick and choose each year and sometimes I’m right and sometimes I’m wrong. If anybody reading this knows the perfect answer, I’m on LinkedIn.”
How important is comfort in your slippers and what technologies have been incorporated?
“The work-from-home equation makes comfort and technology the most important quality in a slipper these days. We are working with 3M and other companies on ideas that I never would have believed could be added to a slipper in our category. For 33 years, I was a guy in the office every day, no matter what, but for months, I’ve been working from home and didn’t want to get out of my slippers just to go to the mailbox. With the cool new soles and water-resistant uppers we were testing, I was set for days of sheltering in place.”