Rothy’s, the online shoe brand with a cult-like following, wants a new audience: little girls.
The company—which has seen dedicated Facebook groups pop up with more than 3,000 members showing off their shoes or sharing trade rumors—is debuting 11 loafer-style shoes for girls. Dubbed “Rothy’s Girls” and made out of recycled plastic water bottles, the machine-washable shoes will cost $65 each.
“Something that I hope gives a mom a reason to want to buy them—not just because they’re cute—[is that there’s] such a broad range in how little girls can wear them, and they’ll last,” said Erin Lowenberg, creative director at Rothy’s.
Rothy’s, which opened up its first store in San Francisco in May, is part of the growing sector of direct-to-consumer brands challenging both traditional brands and retailers. The company is following the same model to success that other similar, pricer shoe brands, like Allbirds, have found in the direct-to-consumer world: Consumers are willing to shop with a company that has a clear brand and mission. The IAB estimated in a February 2018 report that most direct-to-consumer companies currently have annual sales under $1 billion and are actively disrupting sectors like shaving and mattresses while removing market share from traditional players.
Both Lowenberg and Elie Donahue, vp of marketing at Rothy’s, acknowledge that the shoes are a bit pricey for a kid’s product. But although children will likely outgrow them, the brand hopes customers buy the shoe anyway because of the versatility it offers kids—as well as peace of mind for parents who can just toss them in the wash when they get dirty after a play day outdoors.
“I think [this shoe is for] the savvy parent who knows their girls are on the go,” Donahue said. “You’re buying one shoe for three different occasions versus buying three shoes.”
Liza Smith, a copywriter and content strategist, said she’d consider buying them for her four-year-old daughter—despite the price.
“If they have the same proof points as the adult shoes [washable, removable insole], that’s attractive to me as a parent,” Smith said.
Bob Phibbs, CEO of retail consulting agency The Retail Doctor, also doesn’t see the price as a barrier.
“The profitability is there, and they’re not trying to hit a price point,” Phibbs said. “They’re trying to see what’s cool, and they’re hitting it. Kids’ shoes is a interesting choice because kids wear shoes out, [but] you’re buying this for bragging rights, Instagram rights.”
However, Rothy’s isn’t setting its sights that low; Lowenberg noted that women’s shoe sizes start at five and the little girls’ line ends at a size four, so they’re hoping preteens and tweens join the brand at a young age and stay committed throughout the years.
“It’s meant for the girl who plays hard,” Donahue said.
The marketing campaign for the new product line will focus on how the shoes make girls feel confident, with the theme being “what’s your superpower.”
The company is also planning on debuting another product in the fall, but remains mum on some of the core details. Donahue said the company tries to keep in mind all the different aspects of a woman’s day and the type of shoe she might need.
“We’re trying to be restrained about the number of shoes we put out there,” Donahue said.
Donahue said Rothy’s net promoter score (a marketing measurement to find brand loyalty) is in the 100th percentile so far, attributing that to the level of love the brand has, with some groups on Facebook boasting more than 3,000 members that talk about the shoes.
“The more different audiences we can get to have that experience, the more we have a lifelong customer,” Donahue said.
The Rothy’s Girls collection will be available in sizes 10-13 for toddlers and 1-4 for kids, with color options including spotted, flamingo, olive camo, lemondrop, jelly bean, navy, cowgirl, dark red, taupe heather, black and fillmore purple (the latter only available in the brand’s San Francisco store).