LoveThoseShoes.com: Glenys Berd
We only have two feet, but how many pairs of shoes do we need? "Loads", reckons Glenys Berd
You’d imagine shoes promising to cure back ache, measurably improve posture and reduce cellulite would be popular. Particularly if they’re fashionable too. And they are.
Last year, Glenys Berd, founder of LoveThoseShoes.com, stumbled upon Earth footwear while scouring the web for a new niche. This year, with Earth now its only brand, turnover looks set to hit £2.5m for 2005, with 100% growth forecast for next year, and she has recently agreed a contract to act as sole distributor for the UK, Europe and the Middle-East. In addition to wholesale contracts with small retailers throughout the UK and Ireland, alternative shoe chain The Natural Shoe Store has also begun selling various lines and Gwyneth Paltrow is said to be a fan.
The unusual appeal is down to Earth’s ‘negative heel technology’, which seats the sole of the foot higher than the heel, forcing the wearer into an upright posture. The once-popular brand, which died away in the early 1970s, was resurrected in the US a few years ago by a French-American shoemaker. Berd started importing and through word of mouth and viral marketing LoveThoseShoes is now in the happy position of fighting to keep up with demand. “We could sell twice as many as we get hold of because the order is placed six months before viral marketing kicks in,” she confirms.
However, while such demand promises dramatic growth, it’s also a frustrating and somewhat dangerous position to be in. “There’s a fine balance between over-trading and not slowing down growth of the company,” she admits. Orders have gone in for its spring range, and will be shipped from China in December, by which time many colours and sizes will be sold out before they hit these shores.
Raising £1m via private investors could be crucial in seizing the moment. The company forecasts that the contract to distribute could be worth £30m in revenue over the next five years based on current sales and growth.
Around 5,000 pairs of Earth footwear are being sold each month, with prices ranging from £5 to £135 across its 170 styles, including a vegan range. And this autumn its first line of walking boots will be available – another response to customer demand. Because of proximity, Germany, France and Spain are the next territories the company plans to target, although Berd has also been in talks with potential subdistributors, agents and retail partners in South Africa, Singapore, Hong Kong, Israel and Malta, among others.
For such an early-stage company – it employs just five members of staff – there’s a concern that it might all be happening too fast. The issue of protection is playing on Berd’s mind. With a patent pending on the negative heel technology and the knowledge that German shoe giant Birkenstock has taken note of its progress, the next few months will be key.