How Wide Fit Shoes Stepped Sales To Double Sales
“Shoes mean a lot to people,” says Birju Umeria of Wide Fit Shoes. He’s not talking about fashionistas who are obsessed with what they wear on their feet; rather, he thinks of a much larger group of people who find it difficult to buy shoes that fit and suffer miserably. “The right shoes make a huge difference to your quality of life,” says Umeria. Most people take them for granted, but comfortable shoes are essential for working, living and playing.
Umeria’s family knows something about it, or so. His parents opened their first shoe repair store in 1977, shortly after moving to the UK. Mum, Nayma and dad, Jay, started with a boutique in Camden, north London, before moving to the suburbs of the capital to open two new boutiques, where they first started selling shoes as well. than to repair them.
The company did well until 1988, when a contact with the manufacturer asked the Umerias if they would be interested in selling some of their wide shoes. The order sold quickly and the family had discovered their niche; within a few years they specialized in wide shoes, sneakers and other footwear, with customers pushing their way to their doorstep to buy a product they couldn’t seem to find elsewhere.
The street shoe giants have largely ignored people with wide feet, Umeria says, whether they are customers whose foot shape just doesn’t match standard-size shoes, or those with health problems or injuries. “We are a function-driven company; we are all about comfort, ”he says. Others in the industry, focusing on high fashion and fast fashion, seem to have overlooked a large market of customers looking for just that.
The company’s sales figures prove it. Wife Fit Shoes offers approximately 20,000 pairs of shoes per year. Sales are expected to reach £ 3.2million for 2021 as a whole, up from £ 1.5million last year. Umeria’s target is now to reach £ 25million in sales by 2025.
Obviously, not all of these sales come from the Umerias stores, although one of them remains open to this day. After graduating from college and working in digital marketing, Umeria spent much of the early 2000s pestering her parents into setting up an online sales operation; it took a long time to convince – and Umeria had to do the development of the site itself – but Wide Fit Shoes launched online in 2006. E-commerce was an immediate success.
Celebrity mentions helped. Representatives for Tom Cruise tracked down the company online and ordered a dozen pairs of comfy sneakers when the actor injured himself while filming Mission Impossible 6 in London. Actors Sheila Hancock and John Goodman also bought from the company.
However, the Umerias are more interested in their more ordinary customers, for whom finally discovering that it is possible for them to buy comfortable and well-fitting shoes has been a revelation. “Some of their stories are just phenomenal,” says Umeria. “We spend a fair amount of time reading their reviews online every week, advising people on what they need, and sometimes our products are really life changing.”
As a result, customers can accommodate a long commute to work or can pursue hobbies that have historically been prohibited. Those who suffer from illnesses and injuries can go on with their lives without suffering from chronic pain.
It is a large and growing market. Wide Fit Shoes originally envisioned serving an older clientele, specifically targeting the over 60s. More recently, according to Umeria, the demographics have changed, with many sales to over 50s as well, as well as growing interest from younger buyers. And it’s a loyalty business. “Once customers buy from us, they tend to come back,” he explains.
Part of the company’s success in recent years is clearly due to Umeria’s digital know-how. Having finally joined the company full-time as a director in 2018 – after offering advice while staying in his day job for years – he orchestrated a redesign of his digital platform, including a move to Shopify at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The change has paid off, more than doubling revenues over the past year.
However, Umeria would like to point out that Wide Fit Shoes remains a family business. Now aged 61 and 73 respectively, his mother and father remain involved – “they really appreciate that” – and his brother and sister-in-law have also joined the company, bringing expertise in e-commerce and marketing. finance.
Additionally, Umeria believes that Wide Fit’s success is as much about its ability to deliver customer service and connect with customers as it is about a seamless digital presence. “So many people need help and advice,” he says. “People still want a traditional product and service.
The good news for Wide Fit is that few companies in this industry want to offer this in this niche. Yet the company is doing its best to persuade manufacturers to embrace inclusiveness; he works with a number of big brands to create shoes specifically for this market.
This is only part of the expansion plan, says Umeria, who is also working to ensure the company has the infrastructure in place – from warehousing and distribution to customer service – To support its rapid growth. “This is turning out to be a great time to evolve the business and take it to the next level,” he recalls.