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Foot Solutions Rolls Out Licensing Initiative

The comfort chain will align itself with competitors and provide business strategies.

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When most retailers are carefully guarding their business strategies in a tough marketplace, Foot Solutions founder and CEO Ray Margiano is eager to share his.  

Overseeing 250 franchised comfort stores, Margiano is moving forward with a new retail concept that aligns his chain with the competition. After being approached by independents impressed with the Marietta, Ga.-based chain’s successful blueprint, Margiano will offer Foot Solutions’ products and selling approach to fellow comfort stores.

“It’s for the person who’s already in business and has reached their ceiling doing business the way they have,” said Margiano, noting that the program allows stores to have the franchise experience without a full commitment. “It’s an opportunity to increase [their] business.”

Plans include integrating the Foot Solutions concept and name within existing independents via a licensing agreement. Stores would be co-branded, allowing them to tap into the chain’s product offering, buying strategies and advertising, as well as take advantage of its proprietary scanning device and software, including POS materials. Down the road, Margiano added, these retailers could transition to full-fledged Foot Solutions franchisees.

Foot Solutions debuted its first licensed venture in August with Shoecolate, a fashion-comfort store in Woodlands, Texas. According to Shoecolate buyer Matty Kremer, the store has seen an increase in business of 25 percent since the partnership. Kremer added that Foot Solutions’ Internet presence has been the biggest boon to the business, with its educational information on foot health and tips on shoe fitting.

“[Foot Solutions] invests a lot in the Internet,” said Kremer. “[We couldn’t] do it alone.”

Kremer added that pedorthic-oriented brands such as Think, Finn Comfort and Mephisto, which are offered by both retailers, have seen an increase in sales as well.

And the benefits extend both ways, said Margiano. Foot Solutions anticipates a 15 percent boost in business next year. Still, he admitted, like the industry at large, the chain saw a dip in sales in 2009, down 5 percent from the year prior. The company also halted its expansion plans this year, bowing only 25 stores instead of the expected 40 to 50.

“We were impacted by the economic slowdown,” said Margiano, who expects to reach the goal next year. “We have 40 stores in the works over the next six to 12 months.”

Going forward, Margiano anticipates the wellness category could account for 30 percent of Foot Solutions’ business. Contributing to the growth is the chain’s exclusive distribution of German wellness brand Chung Shi, which was introduced five years ago.

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