A COMFORT shoe maker is proving it is possible to grab a market foothold despite competition from cheaper imports.
FRANKIE4 Footwear hopes its first shipment of podiatry shoes will make footprints across the nation.
The company manufactures dress shoes with an emphasis on comfort and foot support. Their designs include slim polyurethane soles to reduce the effects of impact when walking.
The shoes are targeted at workers who spend long hours on their feet in industries including health, hospitality, beauty and travel.
“Workers who are always on their feet like nurses, wait staff, hairdressers and flight attendants need comfort, but are crying out for style. We hope to eliminate that void,” says FRANKiE4 owner Alan McCulloch.
McCulloch and his wife Caroline (pictured) first went into business a year ago. They now have retail shoe and podiatry shops in Indooroopilly and Windsor.
The company employs 11 staff and expects to turn over $400,000 in the 2012 financial year. The McCulloch’s goal is to reach $1 million in revenue within three years.
The specialty shoe maker is currently searching for stores that are keen to stock their bespoke product.
“We are after stores that are influential, not necessarily high-volume retailers. We want to hear from stores that appreciate our shoes and will sell them based on merit,” says Alan McCulloch.
“We do not want to flood the market. We want a small number of accounts that will do the products justice in each state and territory.”
FRANKiE4 has released five styles in three different colours.
“We are working on adding four more styles per season. We have made prototypes and will spend six to eight weeks testing them,” says McCulloch.
The McCullochs are not intimidated by lower-priced products from overseas competitors.
“Our customers do not buy based on price. They choose us for features and comfort. It is a different market to the cheaper Chinese-made shoe,” says Alan McCulloch.
But FRANKiE4 has taken advantage of proximity to Asian markets by moving its wholesale manufacturing operations offshore.
“We can find any leather sample we want there and have access to better materials, equipment and knowledge about hardening or softening materials,” he says.
Half of FRANKiE4’s retail customers are women and 30 per cent are children.
“The male market is tough as they tend to hate shopping and leave as soon as possible after making a choice,” says McCulloch.
FRANKiE4 recently set up an online shopping portal but internet sales currently represent less than 5 per cent of sales.
The company is looking at possibly developing a mobile phone application to go with quick response codes printed on their shoe boxes that direct shoppers to the FRANKiE4 Facebook page.
“We find it is a useful platform to let our followers know about our new styles,” says McCulloch.
The business has recruited former Olympic volleyball champion Natalie Cook for marketing photo shoots.
“I treat her as a patient and she appreciates the comfort our shoes provide her. She needs a good quality shoe to walk around in,” says McCulloch.
FRANKiE4 also is a supporter of the Mater Foundation’s Little Miracle charity program.
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