The brand that I like for June is Feit; with thanks to merchant extraordinaire and former Haul ringleader Scott Kilmartin for the introduction.
Unless you like your shoes to be an unassuming mix of handmade quality and timeless style with an edge, you may not have heard of Feit. But for customers who have discovered them, it’s a habit hard to break.
For the uninitiated, Feit makes shoes by hand out of leather which is kept as close to natural state as possible. They make a few timeless – with an edge – styles at a time, which are gone when they are gone. They sell online, via a flagship retail outlet in Darlinghurst in Sydney and in a few (very few) other selected outlets around the world.
Deliberate scarcity and limited production runs doesn’t sound like a very sound business model, but it makes a refreshing point of difference in today’s hyper commercialised shoe marketplace. And after being on that mass market end of the commercial shoe spectrum, Tull Price decided it was time for a better, more sustainable, and fulfilling way to feed his passion for shoes.
Joining forces with his brother Josh, they started Feit in 2005. The recipe is pretty simple. Work with top craftsmen using traditional construction. Honour the quality of the materials by only using the best quality leathers and avoiding harsh chemicals and using only natural vegetable dyes. Create as little harm to the environment as possible along the way. Make shoes that are timeless and long-lasting. Then repeat.
It’s rare to find an organisation that wears their values on their sleeve and embed what it cares about so deeply across its practices. Compromise is not an option. For example if there is only enough of a certain quality of leather to make 50 pairs of shoes, then that’s all that gets made.
As with any brand with word-of-mouth this good, loyal customers are bound to follow. But great quality, sustainable luxury comes with a small downside – how to keep customers coming back when the product they buy might last them for years?
One loyalty payoff for website members is the option to pre-order and secure their pair of a particular style, providing both cult status for the customer and guaranteed production numbers and revenue for Feit.
Additionally, excursions into new product lines including belts, wallets and a (soon to be released) women’s line give “feitophiles” the chance to continue to get their fix – and seeing the shoes are only made in strictly limited numbers a bit of pre-emptive purchasing for future use is also not unheard of.
As noted by Josh Price, “We want to continue to make a great product we are proud of that will last.” And while growth is measured by better not necessarily bigger, I hope there’s room for both because with shoes this good, word is sure to keep spreading.
Here are three takeaways for other SMEs:
1. All great brands build what they care about into everything they do and then make that visible in how they do it.
2. Think beyond the obvious approaches for your marketplace. Deliberate scarcity can be a winning strategy.
3. Everyone is not your customer. Figure out who is and then focus your energy and approach on the people who are and don’t compromise.
As a note – anyone I mention in these blog posts is here solely because I like what they are doing and think others can pick up a tip or two from them.
If you like a brand and think I would like it too, post it in comments or give me a shout out on Twitter with the name and I promise I’ll look at them – can’t promise I’ll talk about them though.
See you next week.
Michel is an independent Brand Analyst dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com.