Toms has got a new look, a new slogan and a new business model.
For more than 14 years, the shoe brand founded by entrepreneur Blake Mycoskie has been recognized for its signature “One for One” giving strategy — that is, buy a pair of shoes and the brand gives a pair to a child in a developing or undeveloped country. But today, as it celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, the company has introduced a bold commitment to give a third of annual net profits to local community-focused organizations.
Its new slogan: “1/3 of Profits for Grassroots Good.” Simply put, Toms will no longer be donating shoes; instead, it will invest those funds in grassroots efforts focused on equity.
“We’ve given away over 100 million shoes in the first 14 years, and I’m even more energized about being a part of the second chapter of Toms,” Magnus Wedhammar, who was named CEO of Toms last January, told FN.
According to the chief executive, who said he received Mycoskie’s “blessing” to evolve the strategy, “We’re not changing the original mission — being in business to improve lives — nor are we changing our vision. … [Giving] is not only the great authenticator, but the great differentiator from other brands. This is in our DNA, and it’s what sets us apart from the competition.”
As part of the new strategy, Toms’ top management identified three key pillars that will be the focus of its philanthropic work moving forward: promoting mental health; increasing access to opportunity; and ending gun violence. (In early 2019, a few months after the Thousand Oaks, Calif., mass shooting, Toms memorably launched the End Gun Violence Together campaign with a $5 million pledge — the single largest corporate gift to end gun violence.)
“Those efforts to end gun violence were the impetus for the question: Are we doing all we can?” said chief strategy and impact officer Amy Smith. “The reason we chose these issue areas are: one, because we believe we can have a great impact in them; two, because they all help lay the groundwork to creating more equity in marginalized communities; and three, because our consumer is very committed to them — especially this next generation of customers. They vote their values with their wallets every single day, and these issues for them are front and center.”
As part of its evolution, Toms is also undergoing a creative overhaul. It has relaunched its website, intends to release new marketing with a diverse collective of brand ambassadors and has reimagined its iconic Alpargata silhouette. It also plans to debut new collaborations with stationery retailer Paper Source and home decor brand West Elm in the fall and holiday seasons, respectively.
With these new projects in mind, the brand also been “hyper-focused” on millennial and Gen Z consumers over the past year, said chief marketing officer Ian Stewart. “We believe that if we think deeply about social issues, how we present our brand, how we communicate, the models we use in photography, the stories that we tell around different people — if we do that right — we will win this new generation. … Our intent is to [reach out to] Gen Z and millennial in a way that’s not going to be off-putting to our loyal customers who have been with us for the last 15 years.”
What’s more, Toms has entered into a multiyear licensing partnership with California-based textile and tech company Future Stitch — a LEED-certified firm run by founder and CEO Taylor Shupe — to design, develop and distribute a line of socks, some of which are specifically tailored to the Alpargata.
“It’s this marriage between two product companies that put the planet and people before profit,” Shupe told FN. “That’s what makes the relationship so special and why it was so easy for us to get along from the very beginning. Toms’ new direction is absolutely phenomenal, and I hope others will follow that same direction. … I firmly believe this brand is going to see a strong resurgence.”
According to Wedhammar, Toms saw revenues decline last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (He did not specify exact numbers, but said it was a “tough year, especially for the wholesale channels.”) However, he shared that the business has “stabilized,” with direct-to-consumer e-commerce representing more than half of sales and Toms.com recording its “best year” in company history in 2020.
And the CEO is highly optimistic about 2021 and the company’s new direction.
“When impact, product and marketing come together, that’s where the magic happens, and that’s what we’ve been working on over the last nine to 12 months,” Wedhammar said. “We are ready to put that in action and start the execution phase. … We had a strong first quarter. 2021 is the year when Toms returns back to growth.”