Riding the Environmentally Friendly Bandwagon
Shoe-care executives are slowly working to get their shoe-care products on the road to ecological and environmental standards.
But beyond the routine of recycling packaging, as well as reducing the paper and inks in packaging and promotional materials, generally sustaining the environment has been difficult for these chemical and consumer packaged-goods companies that are marketing shoe-care products.
“Consumers are not prepared to trade down on products that are not as efficient,” said Ian Plane, vice president, shoe-care marketing for Kiwi Brands, Douglassville, Pa. “We still market pump sprays for waterproofing, but consumers don’t like them,” he added.
But environmental concerns have yet to exact end-all solutions. “We’re moving to convert all products to be environmentally friendly, but there are setbacks,” said Don Cortez, managing partner for Colorstik Ltd., Beverly Hills, Calif. “Solvents work better than water-based products, and we’re trying to develop new products that either meet or surpass the quality of earlier products.”
Although CFCs used in aerosol sprays have nearly been eliminated from existence due to environmental legislation, Punch Shoe Care, marketed by Boston-based Silverite Gutterman Co., claims it has not used CFCs since 1985. In addition, the firm does not conduct any animal tests on formulas or ingredients.
“We try to use manufacturing methods that are highly waste-conscious… and we position ourselves as ‘the natural choice,'” said Jay Wilcox, president of Port Washington, Wis.-based Woodlore. He also noted that the growth rate of aromatic cedar, the raw material used to manufacture his firm’s shoe trees, actually outpaces the rate at which it is forested.
Other firms will convey their non-toxicity messages on packaging. Natural waxes and raw-material byproducts, such as mink oil, are being marketed as alternatives to synthetic adhesives and sealants as shoe protectants. But as Jay Conley, president of Ashland, N.H.-based Rochester Shoe Tree, said, “If more shoe care were used, less old shoes would end up in the trash.”
Marketing and Merchandising
Retailers have typically treated shoe care as an addon purchase. Shoe-care executives keen to this ageold merchandising trick are now trying to change the custom of displaying shoe care at the point-of-sale or cash wrap.
“Consumers don’t know they need shoe-care items, so you have to educate them,” said Gus Blythe, president of SecondWind Products Inc., Paso Robles, Calif., who has selected to use in-store videotape for demonstrating to consumers and his sales associates alikethe importance and the need for his company’s shoe-care products.
In an attempt to inform the captured audience on the sales floor about the products marketed by Hickory Brands, Trish Harris, vice president of sales, developed technologically aware, multilingual brochures. Meanwhile, Woodlore, which specializes in aromatic cedar accessories, has developed a full range of point-of-purchase materials, display stands and full-color display units to hold the inventory of shoe trees sold by the firm.
Balancing visuals and counterspace has always been a challenge for shoe-care companies — and is difficult to overcome.
“We’ve tripled the amount of dollars in the same amount of space…to help the retailer make the most of the counterspace design,” said Don Cortez, managing partner for Colorstik Ltd., Beverly Hills, Calif.
And when presentation counts — especially in what Jay Conley, president of Rochester Shoe Tree, called “weak sales effort” stores — by minimizing packaging and utilizing J-hooks to suspend shoe trees, sales have improved for the Ashland, N.H.-based shoe-care firm. Conley has also shifted to more program selling than item selling, and encourages his retail customers to do the same by merchandising gift kits and compact cases.
Jacqui Livermore, sales and telemarketing manager for Apple Polishes, Stow, Mass., has added more trade shows and trade advertising to the company’s budget. She also said that Apple will expand its line of shoe- and leather-care products to target the garment, luggage, handbag and accessory trades.
Private Label vs. Branded
Whether footwear wholesaler or retailer, every executive believes his or her particular brand or name has equity and a certain intrinsic value.
“We’ve found that discount and mass merchant [retailers] like private label because it provides a better margin,” said Barry Feldman, vice president of St. Louis-based Vanguard Chemical Corp., adding that 90-95 percent of his sales are generated by private-label programs, the majority of which are retailers’. “Upscale customers like it because it provides non-comparison [on price! and the consumer keeps the shoe care for a long time, therefore keeping the retailer’s name around,” he said, noting that sometimes the store simply wants the shoe-care bottle to “match the decor” of the store.
But some executives in shoe care predict the end is near for private label.
“It will start changing because [private labelers] will see the quality is not contained in the product,” said David Shinder, president of DBA Euroimport Co., the Seattle-based importer of Collonil shoe-care products from Germany. Although he still makes product for wholesale private labelers, he has witnessed the problems associated with retailers and private-label programs: Shoes were being returned at record rates after consumers had applied the department store’s labeled shoe care.
“Private label is a dumb thing to do…no private label has outsold what we brand,” said Gus Blythe, president of SecondWind Products Inc., Paso Robles, Calif. With regard to vendors’ brands, they “have been a failure when you find them at retail, because retailers are forced to take [the shoe care],” he said, adding that unbranded provides a disservice to the retailer. “The price is jacked-up through the roof. And do customers get value? No. Do customers buy it? No.”
Jacqui Livermore, sales and marketing manager at Stow, Mass.-based Apple Polishes, said her firm has found a way to balance unbranded and branded product merchandising. “Co-labeling — which has our name on our packaging and still involves committing [the second party] to minimum production — works because you have the reputation of both brand names on the label.”