Online. Big box. No thank you.

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I’d like to say the concept of Kneed Footwear happened with some eureka moment, the one where you are suddenly awoken from a dream with a clear unshakable vision. The type where you spend all night writing a mission statement and distribute it throughout the office only to be fired for unilaterally trying to change the corporate model. This company didn’t start that way. Kneed Footwear was not actually the result not of a single thought or idea at all. It was the result of listening to hundreds of customers and retailers and feeling more conflicted and stuck everyday. It was going back and forth from the brand boardroom to the retail floor with no satisfactory resolutions.

Selling online. What started initially as a technological curiosity among brands soon became an addiction. The access to customers was seemingly unlimited. Any customer who ever bought their shoes before could now just Google their brand name and in moments receive dozens or hundreds of product pages, reviews, etc. That’s not to say this was all bad. The consumer is now more educated than ever before. The brands that had the right mix continued to win more market share, although much of that market share was earned by discounting. This new online market continues to grow at a breakneck speed. It’s a predictable strategy, the more the price is discounted the faster it sells.

Selling big box. The holy grail of many brands is to land that big national chain. Those nationwide retailers that write you a single order that once filled puts the brand in a euphoric state of “we’ve made it” … temporarily. The contracts are intense. There are discounting terms, chargebacks, advertising fees, etc. The goal for many of these big box dealers is to earn their customer purely based on price. As such, they negotiate with brands purely in terms of price. The big box retailers wait in the periphery until the brand establishes a consumer following, then they come in and offer the same for less. It’s an irresistible offer for a consumer being value conscious. The conflict is also created with the consumer. They would be willing to pay a fair retail value but they are feeling pressured to be thrifty. Who can blame them, we all have bills to pay.

However, there was a cost along the way that has now been felt by the industry. Just like the environmental effects of continuing to pollute “free” water to foster inexpensive industry growth, the abuse of one resource to grow another isn’t sustainable. In the case of purchasing footwear, the independent footwear retailer is the one being abused.

You see brands cannot fit shoes online. The service in a big box store occurs almost exclusively at the cash register (after all that is their primary interest). Footwear brands need a showroom. They need the potential customer to go into a store and try the footwear on. Independent footwear retailers have long been this community resource with well trained staff to ensure you get a great fit for your foot, as feet come in various shapes and sizes. These retailers are also the ones that research and find brands that will work best for their customers. They have a basic business model – provide a service to the community and get reimbursed a fair price for that service to pay off their overhead and bills. If a customer uses the resource without paying for that resource it doesn’t take an economics degree to know what happens to that resource. It becomes polluted, dries up, and dies.

Thankfully, footwear retailers are intelligent, resourceful people. They know intimately the value of service. There are technological advances now directing customers to shop in their own communities. Now brands have to do their part, or in the case of Kneed Footwear, be created under this new paradigm. Brands can no longer take advantage of their biggest advocates. They can no longer take customers that were earned on the retail floor fitting chair and lure them to shop at a discounted price elsewhere. Brands have to either commit to independent footwear dealers or they are going to be the ones risking extinction in that space.

This is why Kneed Footwear was created. Our goal is to fully support your local independent footwear dealer. When you buy a product from Kneed Footwear, not only was that product fitted properly where you purchased it, but the proceeds from that product are helping that retailer (and the surrounding community) thrive.



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