Why Brands Should Cozy Up to At-Home Footwear

Old Friend Footwear

A good pair of slippers is a key ingredient to a relaxing night—or entire weekend—home.

Americans’ evolution into homebodies has been well-documented. From adopting the Danish’s “hygge” approach to creating comfortable living spaces, to “Netflix and chill” becoming part of modern dating vernacular, to the influx of convenient on-demand services, consumers are finding fewer reasons to leave their homes.

The art of relaxation—be it face masks, meditation or kicking back and enjoying a book—even has an official name now: self-care. According to Wellandgood.com, Google searches for “self-care” are 25 percent higher this year than at this time in 2017.

In an interview with Refinery 29, Girls’ Night In founder Alisha Ramos shared how her start-up encourages self-care through staying in and connecting with friends in a low-key setting. Girls’ Night In sends subscribers weekly newsletters with recommendations for a relaxing night. The company also has an online book club and sells trinkets like “Homebody” T-shirts and journals.

“I think staying in and practicing self-care is having a huge cultural moment right now, especially among Millennial women,” Ramos told Refinery 29.

Home goods
Consumers’ preference for staying in is having a positive impact on the home appliances industry, too. The NPD Group reported that small kitchen electronics ended 2017 with dollar sales up 7 percent. Home environment appliances sales increased 6 percent. Multi-cookers, coffee makers, barware and oral care products were among the top holiday home gifts in 2017.

Joe Derochowski, NPD executive director, industry analyst for home and appliances, noted that marketing and innovation efforts have improved in the key areas consumers are focused on—health and wellness, entertaining and convenience.

The same study found that Americans are spending more time at home—eight more days in 2012 compared to 2003. Meanwhile, they spend 6.7 fewer days in offices and stores. When they are at home, the report noted that Americans are working from home, streaming video or just using their computers (i.e. online shopping).

Slipper standouts
While services like Seamless, Netflix and Amazon Prime fulfill Generation Yawn’s creature comfort needs, shoe brands can find pockets of opportunities with cozy footwear for the home.

At FN Platform last week, Beth Goldstein, industry analyst and executive director of NPD Group, said the slipper business is solid and being revived by a crop of newcomers including indoor/outdoor slipper brand Birdies, a favorite of royal-to-be Meghan Markle.

Birdies was born out of co-founders Bianca Gates’ and Marisa Sharkey’s frustration with the traditional slipper market. The duo’s search for “indoor shoes” that were comfortable for working but stylish enough for entertaining friends and family at home, turned up empty.

Their line of sleek smoking slippers with on-trend uppers—think calf hair camo, kilties, tassels and leopard print—with faux shearling and quilted interiors, sets out to solve the problem.

“People are investing in their homes. You see that interest on Pinterest and Instagram,” Sharkey said. “Our shoes are for the modern woman who wears many hats. She wants to have a beautiful home, but she’s busy and she’s not trying to be perfect. She’s bringing people together, and all of those trends play into our product.”

Wolverine 1000 Mile met demand for premium slippers with its limited edition Lodge Moc last December. Handcrafted in Maine, each slipper is made with an ultra-soft Horween Dearborn leather upper and Horween Predator leather sole.

Other brands are offering versatility, too. London-based Mahabis has created unisex slippers inspired by the simplicity of Scandinavian design. The brand takes the indoor/outdoor concept to heart with its range of sculpted lambswool footwear with detachable soles. Even sandal brands like Teva are tapping into the indoor-meets-outdoor footwear segment with new styles like the Ember Moc. The brand describes the shoe as “part sneaker, part sleeping bag” with its laid back collapsible heel and soft, slipper-like construction.

Comfort footwear brand Vionic continues to see momentum build in its own slipper business as well. At FN Platform, Lisa Bazinet, Vionic executive vice president and global brand architect, said slippers are a year-round business for the company. Each slipper features Vionic’s tried and tested Orthaheel technology for all-day support for at-home wear.

For Fall ’18, the brand is slimming down the profile of its women’s slippers. The suede mocs—accented with a scalloped topline—are available in soft periwinkle and pink, as well as traditional gray and tan. For warmer climates, Bazinet said spa-like terry thong slippers are a regular hit.

Michael Haley, EVP of Old Friend Footwear, said consumers are willing to invest in at-home footwear.

Old Friend Footwear debuted an elevated collection of men’s slippers made with buffalo hide at the trade show. Lined with 100 percent genuine sheepskin, the Fall ’18 collection of slip-ons with outdoor-friendly soles will retail for $109-$169.

The slipper brand is also seeing interest in the Snowbird 2. The updated women’s clogs boast leather uppers, sheepskin linings, removable sheepskin insoles and dual density outsoles perfect for indoors and outdoors.

Andrew Arvedon, Green Market Services Company vice president of product and sales, said the current slipper market provides consumers high value for a lower cost than other rubber sole footwear categories.

Green Market manufactures slipper programs for Clarks and most recently, Rockport. While Clarks slippers skew toward rugged clogs and mocs, Arvedon said Rockport is more traditional. Rockport’s slipper collection is based on some of its popular casual styles and includes its proprietary TruTech support system for added comfort.

Arvedon said suede and synthetic wool are key materials, while pops of fashion like foil star patterns, wording and sweater knit cuffs add some novelty.

Dearfoams is home to endless novelties for at-home shoes. Genuine suede slippers with a multi-density cushioned insole, memory foam and molded TPR indoor/outdoor outsole remain an essential part of the company’s year-round business, but the brand plays up slippers’ fun factor for holiday.

At Platform, the brand presented a Fall ’18 collection chock-full of gift items, including matching slippers for the entire family, knits spruced up with hints of metallic threads and fashion plays on the Gucci slide.

A rep for the company said when the high-end fashion world went crazy for slides, it opened a whole new business for slippers.

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