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INDEPENDENT RETAILER magazine is now the official news outlet for Wholesale Central visitors. Each monthly issue is packed with new product ideas, supplier profiles, retailing news, and business strategies to help you succeed.

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Fab Footwear Online

Sep 1, 2007
by Christopher Heine

Did you know that went from $8.5 million in revenue five years ago to $597 million in 2006? As if that is not enough, the shoes eretailer is shooting for an incredible $800 million this year, and a mind boggling $1 billion in '08.

Zappos' success illustrates the fact that the web footwear marketplace has been steadily skyrocketing for some time now, but the growth has not been limited to retailers. Wholesalers have been getting into the act as well, and they have been touting a slew of great outdoor/indoor sandals, a medley of sporty sneakers, and numerous snazzy shoes for more formal occasions. And that barely scratches the surface when it comes to the inspiring stories happening within the footwear community.

"We are really getting ready to take this thing to the next level," said Lisa Middleton, CEO of footwear wholesaler, Iggly Biggly, in Florence, AL. "We are just starting to bring in our first round of investors. Our flip flop sales have been going fantastically. We are selling coast to coast, having a lot of good luck in corporate gifting. Flip flops are really becoming bigger all the time in terms of their mass appeal."

Flip Flops Craze
One of the driving factors in the explosion of the flip flops market is that people now wear them year round, indoors and outdoors, for all types of leisure activities. Other names for flip flops are strapless footwear, sticky thongs, sticky shoes, downunders, and topless sandals.

While a product with that many names has to be good, most wholesalers are referring to them as either flip flops or topless sandals. The only difference between the two is the latter usually includes a sticky adhesive to keep them on the foot, and the former does not.

Parties interested in flip flops should tap, where they will see that six pairs come in a clear bag, with a PVC sequin strap and EVA insoles for $29.80 per unit. Buyers of the most popular package (product code URM 5182) receive 4 smalls, 4 mediums, and 4 large bags, all containing six pairs apiece, for $357.60. Other similar package deals go from $345 to $475.

Design wise, they range from simple color variations to decorations with pearls, turquoise, and polished stones. The company aims to market the idea of fun in terms of its bright designs and trademark dinosaur emblem.

"Flip flops are really attractive to women and teens that, today, are in a gigantic buying culture, including home shopping, internet, and traditional retail," Middleton explains. "Mostly, we have attracted mid to high end gift stores with the flip flops. It's worth noting that we have tons of new products and more coming out. We have matching bathing suits, towels, and a bag with a bamboo handle. All of our products are designed to be useful, fun, and comfortable."

Topless Sandals Are Hot
In the idea of comfortable footwear, there is no better example than My Cool Feet, which offers topless sandals that leave the top of the feet completely bare. They have many looks, ranging from dreamy tropical to sunburst California imagery.

"They are pretty print designs that often include flowers and fish," said Cindy Schultz, owner of My Cool Feet Co., Sabula, IA. "Wearers do not have to fret about blisters between their toes and on feet. They don't have to worry about tan lines, because there are no straps. The sandals keep your feet cool, and are a great walking shoe."

My Cool Feet's main product starts out at $12 per unit wholesale. However, if a buyer purchases fifty pair at, the price scales down to $5 per unit. And if you buy 100, the unit cost will be $4.75. Schultz will also send out print catalogs to businesses that email her their business or home address.

In addition, her topless sandals come with a skin sensitive adhesive built right into the sandal, which makes the wearer's foot bottom stick. When a sandal gets dirty, it is easily cleanable with soap, water, and a brush. While it air dries, the adhesive will rejuvenate itself, and the sandal will practically be like new again.

"The combination of unique product design and great customer service is what separates us from the pack," Schultz explained. "We are looking forward to releasing, this fall, a line of topless sandals with a built in arch support."

Foot Jewelry, Too
Without question, the choices nowadays that buyers have in the wholesale footwear market are to their cost savings advantage. For instance, in another example of high quality topless sandals, Always Under Foot offers tropical styles that top out at just $11 per wholesale unit. Additionally, prices lower as the volume of the order scales upward, and it is possible to buy 200 pair for only $1,000.

While Always Under Foot offers men's versions, so far the women's line has been white hot. At the same time, each order comes with full care instructions, which can be seen at "Women love them, because they look sexy," said Sharon Croteau, Owner of Always Under Foot in Sedalia, CO. "The tops of their feet are not hindered with anything, so they are not bothered by thongs or straps. I also offer foot jewelry they can wear with the topless sandals, and those have been popular at my flea market outings. The great thing about the sandals is that they sell practically year round."

Sports Footwear
As Croteau implied, being able to put out product that sells in all seasons is a luxury most retailers strive for. That is why when it comes to sports shoes, it is nice that it does not matter if you are talking about the fall, winter, summer, or spring, because whether addressing the children's or adults' markets, sneakers are always in demand. Most sneakers and running shoes only last around a year, and consumers love to shop for replacements.

However, wholesalers and retailers each have steep competition to contend with before gaining marketshare. In the end, that is good news for B2C and B2B customers, because they will end up getting more bang for their buck.

"Our business proposition is to deliver exceptional value to our customers, with great products and the most competitive prices," said Jay Kleinman, Director of Sales for NAFTA Traders, Inc., Irving, TX. "We accomplish this with the care we put into our website, and through the effort we put in over the phone when customers call."

NAFTA offers blended packs of brand tennis shoes with names like Nike, New Balance, Adidas, Puma, and Fila. Eighteen pack cases start at $477, or $26.50 per pair at the firm's chief product site, Yet if buyers purchase more than $499 worth, they start saving five percent off the total. If they buy $1,000 worth, they can save ten percent, which means the per unit cost comes down to $23.85.

Payments can be made with a VISA or MasterCard, and interested parties within the state of Texas should call before ordering, because they can set up a tax exemption. For early notification on new products, buyers are welcomed to sign NAFTA's email list in the top right hand corner of It is important to mention that the site was built specifically for buyers that plan on spending less than $3,000. Bigger ticket buyers are invited to visit, where they can find phone numbers to reach Kleinman's thoroughly trained sales team.

While having split websites is an intriguing web marketing tactic, one cannot argue with the results. NAFTA currently operates out of a 500,000 square foot warehouse facility, which is five times as large as its space from just five years ago. The firm has also gone from forty to more than 100 employees, as operations continue to purr at and

"We sell to everybody, from flea marketers to people who buy by the truckload," Kleinman explained. "What is unique about our product selection compared to the competition is the fact that we undoubtedly have more choices within brands, and across brands, than the majority of our competitors, and our pricing is hard to beat."

Ballerina Slippers And Flats
Meanwhile, Cheng's Enterprises offers a delightful mix of women's, men's, and children's house slippers that will come in handy for consumers all winter long. The nineteen year old Carlstadt, NJ, company also offers a fascinating array of Oriental styled satin slippers at

But the firm expects its top footwear seller to be its ballerina flats, which wholesale for $5.50 per unit and come in polka dot, camouflage, lace, sparkle, velvet, satin, and mesh designs. Repeat buyers normally include shoe stores, clothing stores, and even some gift retailers. "Women really seem to enjoy the flats style, and the fact that they are comfortable," said James Nguyen, Sales Executive at Cheng's Enterprises. "We have a very competitive price in terms of the quality of the ballerina flats, compared to other wholesalers. They can be gift items, but mostly, women buy them for themselves."

Nguyen explained that his company has worked diligently at improving its website. For instance, now all sixteen pages of the print catalog can be viewed there in a somewhat traditional, page by page manner. In addition, at, visitors can view the firm's trade show schedule and get detailed information on company policies.

"But if you need to call us, be sure to pick up the phone," Nguyen said. "We will be more than happy to tell you what you want to know about our products and offers."

For more info, contact:

Iggly Biggly
205 S. Seminary St.
Florence, AL 35630
Tel.: 256-740-8355

Cool Feet & Co.
2531 550th Ave.
Sabula, IA 52070
Tel.: 563-249-3613

Always Under Foot
8558 W. Jackson Creek Road
Sedalia, CO 80135
Tel.: 303-919-8836

NAFTA Traders, Inc.
520 N. Wildwood
Irving, TX 75061
Tel.: 972-812-3131

Cheng's Enterprises, Inc.
68 Broad St.
Carlstadt, NJ 07072
Tel.: 201-933-9088
Fax: 201-933-3883

Topic: Product Trends

Related Articles: shoes  footwear 

Article ID: 316

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