The Walking Company is the world’s largest retailer of comfort footwear, with more than 200 stores nationwide. The company stocks footwear from major brands such as Dansko, UGG Australia and ECCO, all known for producing quality footwear with an emphasis on maximum comfort. The ABEO brand was introduced by The Walking Company in 2010, generating $3 million in revenue. Since then, the brand has exploded in popularity, and Feshbach says the company predicts revenues of more than $80 million for the ABEO line in 2014.
Abeo biomechanical footwear includes a number of separate technologies such as Abeo BIO (Built In Orthotics), Aero (Air Energy Return Outsole), SMART (Smart Medial Arthritis Relief Technology), LiTe (Lightweight Technology) and 3d3 (3 Dimensional Digital Design).
ABEO footwear combines a number of innovative technologies developed to increase comfort without sacrificing fashion. COO Mike Grenley says that the initial B.I.O system concept was to combine the health benefits of orthotics with comfortable shoe designs that look no different from shoes without the orthotics technology. Grenley says ABEO fulfills “a necessity that no one’s really addressed.”
On Its Toes
The success of the ABEO brand was a welcome development for The Walking Company, but it also necessitated a change in the way it handled its supply chain operations. The ABEO B.I.O. line’s emphasis on comfort and support meant that shoes needed to be categorized based on arch size as well as traditional sizes. That added another dimension to the company’s inventory, Feshbach says. “What we find to be the toughest element of the shoe retail business is staying in stock,” he says.
Carrying a broad assortment of sizes, styles and colors in-store already was a challenge before the ABEO line added arch size to the equation. Unlike other types of shoes, where customers may sacrifice the perfect fit to get the style and look they desire, comfort footwear doesn’t have the luxury of having customers settle. “We never make that sale,” Feshbach says. “We have to fit that person exactly.”
ABEO exponentially expanded the number of SKUs that The Walking Company needs to keep on hand, and so the company turned to a revolutionary solution to help customers find the perfect fit. “As a result of this expanded SKU count, we were forced us to change our entire process,” Feshbach says.
The Walking Company’s new POS system connects each store with its centralized distribution center through the Internet to provide customers with next-day delivery of their shoes. This way, each store only needs to have one sample pair of each SKU on hand, and can continue to devote their stockrooms to the most commonly purchased products. “It just changed the way we were able to hold inventory and it still made the stores fresher and better,” Grenley says.
The ABEO line also has revolutionized the way The Walking Company approaches the marketplace, as it will begin wholesaling the line to other specialty footwear retailers. Feshbach says the specific service and well-trained professionals found at specialized shoe retailers makes them the best and only venue for the ABEO line, and The Walking Company believes expanding the line to other specialty retailers will help grow it even further.
The company has developed a special comfort technology system that to manage their ABEO footwear at its stores, and this technology is being introduced to other retailers that carry the ABEO line. Grenley says the company is confident that ABEO footwear and its unique orthotic technology can help propel the comfort footwear industry to new frontiers of innovation, and that is why The Walking Company has taken the unprecedented step to wholesale the brand.
The continued success of the ABEO line and its anticipated growth over the next several years make it clear that it is an excellent fit for customers and the industry as a whole. “What we know in our business is the most important thing is fit, period,” Feshbach says.