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Why Recovery Sandal Brand Oofos Is Tapping Into the Comfort Market

Barbara Schneider-Levy

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After gaining success in the active market, recovery footwear brand Oofos is setting its sights on the comfort sector. The Braintree, Mass.-based company, launched in 2011, has not only caught the attention of young runners but it has also attracted non-athletes and baby boomers with its overall comfort features.

“Recovery is always going to be critical to us,” said president Steve Gallo. “It’s at the center of our bull’s-eye. [But] what we’ve found is that we appeal to so many people: athletes for recovery and comfort for people who might be having foot pain.”

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The shoe line is made of OOfoam, a proprietary lightweight material that absorbs impact to reduce stress on the joints.

Oofos is sold in 36 countries, with its U.S. distribution strategy focused on 2,200 outdoor running and specialty retailers, including the Jack Rabbit chain and New York’s Paragon Sports. However, the comfort channel is the brand’s fastest-growing segment, now accounting for 15% to 20% of its wholesale distribution.

According to Gallo, the move into comfort was a natural progression since these stores typically sell athletic footwear, too. “They’re an untapped [opportunity] and we do great in them,” said Gallo, citing high-profile sit-and-fit accounts such as Dardano’s in Denver, Lucky Feet in Los Angeles and The Foot Spot in Kansas City, Mo.

The shoe line is made of OOfoam, a proprietary lightweight material that absorbs impact to reduce stress on the joints.

Oofos is sold in 36 countries, with its U.S. distribution strategy focused on 2,200 outdoor running and specialty retailers, including the Jack Rabbit chain and New York’s Paragon Sports. However, the comfort channel is the brand’s fastest-growing segment, now accounting for 15% to 20% of its wholesale distribution.

According to Gallo, the move into comfort was a natural progression since these stores typically sell athletic footwear, too. “They’re an untapped [opportunity] and we do great in them,” said Gallo, citing high-profile sit-and-fit accounts such as Dardano’s in Denver, Lucky Feet in Los Angeles and The Foot Spot in Kansas City, Mo.

These retailers, among others, have contributed to the company’s 50% increase in sales in 2018, with a similar uptick expected this year. “We’re an incremental sale in many instances, almost like an orthotic,” Gallo said. “It’s an easy sell.”

Dillon Dardano, owner of Dardano’s, added Oofos for spring ’18 due to consumer interest. “We had been familiar with the brand for a few years, but started to see an increase in customers coming in wearing and asking for them,” he said. “While it has an important presence as a recovery brand, for our customers, it creates a solution for those struggling with a variety of foot ailments.” Strong sellers for the retailer have been the unisex sandals as well as women’s-specific looks, with Dardano expecting the new spring ’19 adjustable sandal, the OOah Sport Flex, to become one of its top items.

In March, Ofoos also debuted a shop-in-shop in Harry’s Shoes in New York, furthering its impact on the comfort category.

According to Robert Goldberg, the retailer’s president, Oofos’ roots in the performance market helped legitimize the benefits of its signature slides and flip-flops. “It’s something consumers are already embracing as part of their lifestyle,” said Goldberg. “We have customers going to the gym regularly who leave them in their lockers to wear after a workout, as well as around the house, pool or a walk in the park.”

And it was customer feedback that convinced Oofos to expand its product offering beyond sandals and clogs, which retail from $50 to $80.

“We were quickly receiving requests from our audience for a closed-toe shoe that had more versatility to wear all day,” according to Jacqueline Cuniff, the brand’s marketing specialist. In turn, the company developed the OOmg, a unisex slip-on with a breathable 4-way stretch mesh upper, retailing for $130 to $150, that features a patented OOfoam footbed. For women, a duo of cold-weather water-resistant boots, at $180 to $200, were also added in fall ’18, both set on the same foam outsole.

Word-of-mouth has been instrumental in creating brand awareness, said Cuniff, supplemented by social media, email blasts and digital advertising with publications that include Runner’s World and Outside. The company also has a medical referral program, whereby podiatrists can receive a commission for patients who purchase a pair of Oofos, and it works closely with strength coaches and fitness instructors.

“There’s no doubt the comfort market is a much bigger ocean for us,” said Gallo. “We’re just barely scratching the surface.”

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