After seeing renewed interest in its casual EVA loafers over the past two years, Floafers is capitalizing on that 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 store inside the Bell Works complex in Holmdel, NJ, a destination for business, technology, retail, leisure and dining, where Floafers also opened its new headquarters in 2021. According to the brand, the 900 square foot space will serve as a model for a series of franchise stores in the United States and abroad.
Larry Paparo, president and CEO of Floafers, told FN that the company still strongly believes in the wholesale business model, but is developing this concept to help illuminate how it presents itself at retail, in the United States and abroad. “I don’t think we’re going to go crazy with retail stores, but I want to get an idea of what it should look like,” he said. “We have a global presence with a few distributors around the world. So we need to have something to show them in terms of the display and what the story looks like in the world.
Floafers recently signed a new distributor in South Korea. It also has partnerships in the Caribbean, Canada and Israel. Here in the US, major wholesale partners include Zappos.com, DSW, Shoe Station and many specialty stores. “The independent sector has really embraced this,” Paparo said. In total, Floafers is present in 400 stores.
Since its launch in 2019, the brand has grown rapidly. According to Paparo, sales quadrupled the first year, then tripled the second year and doubled again last year. During the pandemic, he said, traffic to Floafers’ e-commerce site has increased, though the DTC channel still accounts for a smaller portion of activity. “We’re now at 60% wholesale versus 40% online,” he said.
On the merchandising side, the shoe brand is expanding its assortment by adding more looks for the whole family. Next month, Floafers is launching a series of vulcanized-inspired sporty slip-ons called the Big City collection. Sneaker-esque shoes take on a more urban vibe, compared to the brand’s preppy loafer silhouettes. They include the Brooklyn for men, the Rio for women and the London for children.
Paparo said the brand’s kids’ business was particularly strong, so Floafers expanded its offering for Spring 22 to include toddler size 4 through youth size 4.
It was good news for Fay Bitman, owner of 14th Avenue Shoe Center, a children’s store in Brooklyn, NY “I’ve been in business for over 30 years and I have to admit, I’ve never had such a reaction to a product [as I have to Floafers],” she says. “Customers are very happy with the brand and the quality.”
She noted that toddler styles were popular because slip-ons are easy to wear and lightweight. “Sometimes a traditional shoe is too heavy for a child,” Bitman said.
To further fuel the excitement in the kids’ category, Floafers has teamed up with Crayola on a shoe line debuting May 1. Crayola Silly Scents scented styles are infused with the scents of pineapple, coconut, cherry, and grape, and are designed with coordinating color patterns. . The collaboration collection is available in sizes toddler 4 through youth 3, and will retail for $44.99 at Floafers.com.
“It’s so much fun that kids won’t want to take it off,” Paparo said.
In its adult collections, the brand has collaborations with Baja Llama and Robert Stock, and it licenses camo prints to outdoor company Mossy Oak. He also created a special “White Ribbon” version of his Posh Driver figure that donates $5 of the purchase price to the American Cancer Society.
Paparo said more partnerships are in the works later this year. “They are running towards us,” he said. “Companies really like the mommy and me and daddy and me aspect.”