It seems shoes that simply look good aren’t cutting the mustard any more. Increasingly, people are now demanding their shoes help them lose weight, get rid of back pain and improve posture. The woman selling this miracle-working footwear is Glenys Berd.
Berd came across a range of footwear called Earth shoes while browsing the internet, and noticed two things: firstly, that people were raving about the health benefits the shoes provided, and secondly, that they were extremely difficult to get hold of.
With a characteristic directness of approach, Berd phoned the US-based shoe-company and asked if she could sell their products online. Out of this one phone call in 2003, her £1.8m turnover business, Love Those Shoes, was born.
“We did a deal, and they sent a few pairs over,” Berd explains. “So we made a website, popped them on, and started marketing them.”
The business, her second online venture, initially struggled to attract investment. “Even now, when we’re selling world-wide, the bank isn’t happy because the internet is still classed as very shaky,” laughs Berd.
However, the publicity that the unique Earth shoes attracted meant the business benefited from plenty of press coverage.
“Because we had something so new and different – there was no other shoes in existence that weren’t just shoes but actually did something, and looked normal - the press picked it up.”
Before long, one of their sandals was featured in the Sunday Times Style magazine, prompting orders for a thousand pairs.
“We didn’t have a thousand pairs!” admits Berd. “The site was red-hot, so we had to get onto the States to make us some. It was a scramble to get them all made and over here. But it built up expectation, and really helped us.”
Word of the shoes, and the business, kept on spreading. Even celebrities started wearing them, and the business ‘just took off’.
“The biggest problem was supplying, because we couldn’t get enough stock. And we have to order six months in advance. So at the beginning, this held us back.”
It’s a problem the business has now conquered, and it is now the exclusive seller of around five ranges of shoe. The newest range boasts it makes the wearer burn at least three times as many calories as they would by walking in normal shoes. Despite the fact the delivery hasn’t yet arrived in the UK, half of them are already sold.
Love Those Shoes success will almost inevitably spawn copycat ventures, but Berd remains unworried by competition:
“People do try to copy, but you can never be as good as the original,” she insists.