After seeing a surge in interest for its casual EVA loafers over the past two years, Floafers is capitalizing on the momentum with several new initiatives this spring, including product launches and its first foray into branded retail.
Next month, the company will unveil a concept shop inside the Bell Works complex in Holmdel, N.J., a destination for business, technology, retail, recreation and dining, where Floafers also opened its new corporate headquarters in 2021. According to the brand, the 900-square-foot space will serve as a model for a string of franchised stores in the U.S. and abroad.
Larry Paparo, president and CEO of Floafers, told FN the company still strongly believes in the wholesale business model, but is developing this concept to help inform the way it shows up at retail, both in the U.S. and abroad. “I don’t think we’re going to go crazy with retail stores, but I want to get a picture of what it should look like,” he said. “We’ve got a global presence with a few distributors around the world. So we’ve got to have something to show them in terms of displays and what the story looks like globally.”
Floafers recently signed a new distributor in South Korea. It also has partnerships in the Caribbean, Canada and Israel. Here in the U.S., key wholesale partners include Zappos.com, DSW, Shoe Station and numerous specialty stores. “The independent sector has really embraced this,” Paparo said. In total, Floafers is in 400 stores.
Since its launch in 2019, the brand has grown rapidly. According to Paparo, sales increased four-fold in year one, then tripled in the second year and doubled again this past year. During the pandemic, he said, traffic to Floafers’ e-commerce site spiked, though the DTC channel still makes up a smaller portion of the business. “We’ve now gotten to 60% wholesale versus 40% online,” he said.
On the merchandise front, the shoe brand is broadening its assortment by adding more looks for the whole family. Next month, Floafers is launching a series of sporty, vulcanized-inspired slip-ons called the Big City collection. The sneaker-esque shoes adopt a more urban vibe, compared with the brand’s preppy loafer silhouettes. They include the Brooklyn for men, the Rio for women, and the London for kids.
Paparo said the brand’s children’s business has been especially strong, so Floafers expanded its offering for spring ’22 to include toddler size 4 up to youth size 4.
That was good news for Fay Bitman, owner of 14th Avenue Shoe Center, a children’s store in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I’ve been in business for over 30 years and I must admit I’ve never had such a reaction to a product [as I have to Floafers],” she said. “The customers are very happy about the brand and the quality.”
She noted that the toddler styles have been popular because the slip-ons are easy to wear and lightweight. “Sometimes a traditional shoe is to too heavy for a child,” said Bitman.
To further fuel excitement in the kids’ category, Floafers partnered with Crayola on a line of shoes debuting May 1. The fragrant Crayola Silly Scents styles are infused with the fragrances of pineapple, coconut, cherry and grape, and are designed with coordinating colorful motifs. The collab collection is available in sizes toddler 4 to youth 3, and will retail for $44.99 at Floafers.com.
“It’s so much fun the kids won’t want to take them off,” said Paparo.
In its adult collections, the brand has collabs with Baja Llama and Robert Stock, and it licenses camo prints from outdoor company Mossy Oak. It also created a special “White Ribbon” version of its Posh Driver silhouette that gives $5 of the purchase price the American Cancer Society.
Paparo said more partnerships are in the works for later this year. “They’re running toward us,” he said. “Companies really like the mommy-and-me and daddy-and-me aspect.”