This year has brought a renewed focus on brick-and-mortar retail, as consumers have returned to in-person shopping and e-commerce growth has slowed.
But for The Good Feet Store, it has never wavered in its focus on the in-store experience, more than doubling its store count throughout the pandemic, with more expansion on the horizon.
CEO Richard Moore told FN the California-based company grew from roughly 100 franchise locations in 2020 to 216 as of press time. “And we’ll be north of 225 easily by the end of the year,” he said. Additionally, it is predicting systemwide budgeted sales of $250 million for 2022, with 6% 4-year average annual same-store sales growth.
Among retailers, The Good Feet Store has a niche focus. It manufactures and sells its own customized arch support systems intended to help correct balance and alignment to reduce foot, knee, hip and back pain.
Moore said he first discovered the company as a customer, and in 2019 helped advise a team at York Capital Management looking to invest in the business. “What we found was that it’s an amazing product. There was nothing to fix,” said the executive, who was previously chief administrative officer and general counsel at Planet Fitness. “It was one of those diamonds in the rough. And what we felt was we could bring an ability to scale, with systems and processes to help bring this product to more people.”
Then the pandemic hit just as the deal was being finalized. “We could have walked away,” Moore recalled. “We could have said, ‘No, this is too much of a risky time. You are brick and mortar, and we’re in the middle of COVID.'” Instead, York Capital closed its investment in April 2020 and Moore took on a leadership role to help guide franchisees through the turbulent times.
He said the retailer’s strength lies in the quality of its products and its hand’s-on approach.
The Good Feet Store’s arch supports are manufactured domestically in its Carlsbad, Calif., factory and are priced from $200-$500. A complete 3-step system with a lifetime warranty costs roughly $1,500. (The retailer does not accept insurance.)
The stores also sell a very limited selection of footwear from names like Brooks, New Balance, Hey Dude and Sanita — though specific brands vary by location. Also available are compression socks from OS1st, a North Carolina-based sister brand of The Good Feet Store.
Customers who visit the stores sit down with associates for lengthy one-on-one consultations, to discuss their health concerns and lifestyle, and assess their foot measurements and pressure points using old-school Brannock devices and ink pads. Once the appropriate arch supports are identified from the more than 400 options, clients conduct a test walk through the store before making a decision.
Moore said the inserts are intended for all ages, “from 6 to 106.” While older customers tend to utilize them for support and balance, he explained, “the types of customers that want pain relief, pain reduction and pain prevention goes all the way down the chain.” He also sees benefits for athletes as well. “We find by wearing our product, your recovery period is shorter and sometimes it’s not as deep of a need for recovery.”
As The Good Feet Store looks to continue its growth trajectory, Moore’s top priority for geographic expansion is major U.S. cities. The retailer opened in the San Francisco area this fall. New York and Miami are on tap for early 2023 and Philadelphia in summer 2023. It aims to enter Detroit in late 2023 and Chicago in 2024.
Additionally, more store openings are planned for mid-tier markets like Bowling Green, Ohio, as well as in its stronger existing markets such as Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C.
Since 2018, The Good Feet Store has grown its systemwide store count by 16% annually, and Moore plans to continue that pace. “But we’re going to grow as fast as we can in a smart way,” said the CEO.
Two big factors impacting its ability to scale are supply and staffing.
The Good Feet Store has avoided many of the headaches of the supply chain crunch because it manufactures its arch supports. But to keep pace, it ramped up production at its California factory by adding a second shift. And Moore said a third or weekend shift could be added next year, or another facility if needed.
The company’s personnel challenges are more complicated. “Our biggest challenge is getting folks on-boarded quick enough to run fast,” Moore said. “There’s this continual need for quality employees who really want to excel and grow. I don’t believe that there’s a dearth out there of them. It’s just the time it takes to find them, and then bring them up to speed in almost all areas of our business.”
When it comes to employee retention, Moore said he encourages company leaders to maintain an open dialogue with their teams. “Pay is always important, right? But pay is not always the most important thing. If you are able to hear your employees about what they need most, what is on their mind, that’s is really really important. I challenge some of my peers who are CEOs: Listen, if you’ve got an exodus, there’s a reason. And we need to be mindful of that.”
That dovetails with the executive’s overall focus on servant leadership within the retail organization. “Our philosophy really comes from the idea that we’re called to serve other people, we’re in this world to be about helping people,” Moore explained. “If we come to work with that idea — rather than trying to accrue power or take control — you end up with better relationships, and better relationships create better product and better businesses. And everyone benefits.”