Detroit News Business: Sales on fast track for band-changing shoes

Mar 24, 2009 by

Detroit News Business: Sales on fast track for band-changing shoes
Published on 24 March, 2009 

Firm’s interchangeable sandals offer comfort, value, can match variety of outfits, president says.
Karen Dybis / Special to The Detroit News
It was a dream eight years in the making: Finding a shoe that could satisfy a woman who wants comfort as well as fashionable footwear.
Commerce Township resident Dave Berg took on that challenge after taking his wife to Florida on vacationn early a decade ago. She toted along a suitcase of shoes so she would have a pair to match every outfit.

So Berg came up with Bandals, a pair of sandals with an interchangeable upper or band. This allows a single shoe base to be worn with a variety of bands. Berg took the idea to shoe companies and industry professionals, eventually running into a like-minded Tom Sesti.
“We give you a quality, comfortable sandal,” Sesti said. “To get a different look
 you only have to spend a few dollars for a new band, and that is a true value in this economy.”

Last summer, they came up with a design, prototype and business plan. After months of testing, they took Bandals to a national footwear show in Las Vegas. With this feedback, they felt ready to launch their product on the world.

And launch they have. After just a year in business, Bandals are now available on two major Web sites and dozens of retail locations. Also, the sandal will be featured on mega-popular television shopping channel QVC in May.

In July, Sesti said Bandals will add a fashion-forward slip style to its current base offerings of a Beach thong and the Classic Casual, a dressier, work-appropriate shoe.

To date, Bandals has nearly 50 patents issued and pending for its designs.

It is a design that resonates with women, said Sarah-Jean Ballard, founder and CEO of Fashionable Media and editor-in-chief of The Fashionable Housewife, a blog dedicated to looking good at all phases of a woman’s life.

“For the smart shopper, I think interchangeable sandals are a brilliant product,” Ballard said. “I think (Bandals) are great because you’re getting a pair of shoes you know is going to be comfortable and you have the assurance that they will go with literally every outfit you own.”

What separates Bandals from other interchangeable shoes is its luxury and value, Sesti said. For example, the Classic Casual sandal has a contoured foot bed, molded arch and toe bar, an all-natural foot bed liner and a textured non-skid sole.

As the company progresses, it plans on adding three to five new bands every month during the sandal season and up to three new base shoes annually.

That way, fashionistas like Berg’s wife and Sesti’s fiancee might be able to satisfy their shoe obsession.

To expand its business base, Sesti said Bandals is looking for strategic partners to differentiate themselves from the competition. So the company is seeking licensing or marketing opportunities to make sure its styles are on trend. Bandals also is looking for more retailers to carry its footwear.

Beach Bandals retail for $35 to $40 a pair with additional bands selling for about $12 to $15 a pair. The newer Classic Casual sells for around $90.

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