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Sure Footed

With a decade of experience crafting quality footwear for kids, Brian and Angela Edgeworth are no longer industry novices. Here, President and Co-Founder Angela reveals the traits that turned Pediped into a specialty retail staple—and why those
values will never waver.

FamilyMany a brand in the children’s industry begins with a frustrated mom who can’t find what she needs on the market, and, in a moment of inspiration, realizes she’s found her entrepreneurial calling. But not many of those moms go on to replicate the level of success that Co-Founder and President Angela Edgeworth has achieved at Pediped, with the help of her husband and fellow Co-Founder, Brian. Now, a decade after Edgeworth designed the prototype for her very first pair of first-walkers, the bestselling children’s footwear brand is available at more than 1,500 retailers in over 50 countries.

Of course, Edgeworth admits, the story wouldn’t be complete without a retailer willing to take a chance on a new product. For Pediped, it was The Pump Station & Nurtury in Santa Monica, CA. “I think if they had said no we probably wouldn’t be in the shoe business,” she says with a laugh. But Edgeworth was offering something that was indeed uncommon at the time: a flexible shoe for tiny feet. “We had just had our first child, Caroline, and we couldn’t find exactly what we were looking for—a soft-soled shoe that she could wear inside or outside,” Edgeworth recalls. “The only thing we could find was more of a sock or a slipper.”

Fittingly, the company’s first line of shoes for infants and toddlers featured flexible soles but were crafted using high-quality leather, a combination that made them ideal for play both indoors and out. Now, dubbed Originals, the collection still offers many of the same bestselling styles that first made Pediped a hit with moms.

As Caroline and Angela’s second daughter, Lauren, grew, so did the brand. “The line just kept growing because at each stage we thought, ‘Let’s just keep going,’” Edgeworth says. Next, in 2007, came the Flex collection for “confident walkers” ages 1 and up. But the brand was missing styles designed especially for toddlers, thus the Grip ‘n’ Go line came along in 2008, offering soft rubber soles, rounded edges that mimic the shape of a child’s foot and a soft toe box to allow toes to grip the floor.

And as the product offering increased, so did sales—a welcome sign of market approval for the footwear
novices. “I don’t think we intentionally set out to be in the kids’ business or the shoe business in particular. It just kind of ended up that way,” she reflects. “We had to learn a lot of the stuff from the school of hard knocks, but some things worked out, too.”

Sharing that success, via the company’s charitable arm, The Pediped Foundation, is one of Edgeworth’s proudest accomplishments. It even earned the brand an Earnie Award in 2012 and 2013, for Best Company for Good and Best Community Outreach, respectively. (Pediped also snagged the Best Footwear Award in 2011 and 2014.) Since its establishment in 2004, the organization has donated more than $2.8 million in cash and product to children in need, via non-profits like Operation Shower and Baby Buggy. “It’s important to us to be able to give back,” Edgeworth explains. “It feels great, and it has a great impact on a lot of different people. It’s been one of those things that we’ve done since the very beginning of the company and will continue to keep doing.”

As for what else the company will keep doing, Edgeworth is mum on details, but promises Pediped will stay true to the core values that have made it a hit with parents across the globe, chiefly, creating comfortable, high-quality footwear. “We’re a company that’s not new and not old, and it’s an exciting phase because there’s a lot more to come.”

Were there any big turning points for the brand over the years?

I feel like there were quite a few. Each time we launched a new product was a turning point for us, since we extended our base and expanded our channels. And a lot has changed in the last five years, in terms of the landscape where people are buying [kids’ shoes]. I don’t think things have stabilized or settled down [since the recession] in that sense. That’s why it’s really important to stay on top of whatever is changing in the market and to be in tune with what’s going on outside of our little bubble.

So how do you stay on top of those changes?

We talk to our retailers a lot, and we get a lot of feedback from our consumers, too.  We try to really listen to what they say. Something that worked last year or five years ago might not work today.

Any examples of adjustments you’ve made in response to those requests?

We’ve expanded our athletic line and size range due to customer demand. Next year we’ll be going to a 36EU for the first time (a 4/5 U.S. kids’ size). We were a little bit resistant at first. We thought our core customer was a little bit younger than that. Sometimes it’s tough to decide when to listen to the minority voice when you’re developing new product. You don’t want to get caught up in trying to please everyone. But we try to listen carefully to feedback, filter it and figure out what we think is in line with our brand, to make sure we’re being true to our core values.

What are those core values?

Our core values are providing comfortable, high-quality and stylish footwear, and excellent customer service. And we stuck to those values even throughout the recession. We didn’t change our product line or change our customer service during tough times, and I think our customers appreciated it—that we completely stood behind the brand 100 percent the entire time.

Do you think that’s why Pediped has such a great relationship with its retailers—because they can rely on the brand for great product?

That’s very flattering and humbling and what we strive to do. The most important thing retailers want is a brand that stands behind its product and delivers the highest quality possible. We try to maintain a great relationship with our retailers. It’s so important because they’re representing the brand. That’s why we love our specialty retailers in particular. They’re the ones that give the best customer service and help kids get the right fit—which ensures their customers come back for repeat visits. Specialty retail is still our core focus.

But Pediped is also available to buy online, correct?

We started selling online at our inception in 2005. Our goal is to make everything seamless, whether customers purchase a pair in a specialty retail store or online through us, or through one of our online partners. Wherever you go, we want to make the experience similar. And the website is an important way to represent the brand—a place where people can go and learn more about the history of the company or look at the current season’s lookbook.

Is your online sales channel growing?

It’s growing, but I think the market is still changing. I don’t think things have stabilized yet in terms of where sales will wind up in the future. We have definitely noticed an uptick. It’s inevitable when you have some brick-and-mortar stores close. People still need to buy shoes. And for busy moms, shopping online is sometimes easier than going into a store. At the same time, we’re hoping to see that brick-and-mortar
channel come back and grow. We believe in that channel, because there will always be customers and parents who want to touch and feel. And shoes are a little bit trickier than clothing—it’s important to get a good fit.

Do you think today’s tech-savvy moms are driving that shift?

Moms today are so much savvier than we were. They have so much information at their fingertips. For example, I used to buy tons and tons of books, but now I just look stuff up online and find the information I need. Other than that, I don’t think that they’ve changed all that much. I think they’re looking for the same core values that I did: quality footwear that’s healthful but also stylish and cute. That’s the need we’re trying to fulfill.

Speaking of style, how do you spot trends?

We look a lot to adult footwear, and we do a lot of our own research, looking at trend forecasts and what’s hot in the market. But at the end of the day, we try not to be super trendy and stick to the core values our customers expect. A lot of our classic styles come back year after year, and our customers expect to see those styles back in the line every season—and they definitely let us know when they aren’t there anymore. [Laughs.] We often try to incorporate trends—to do fun new stuff and keep it interesting—but in a slightly more subtle way. It’s a bit of a balance.

Did the Northeast’s snowbound winter affect Pediped in the same way it stymied sales for a lot of other children’s companies?

Not too much, thankfully. There were a couple crazy winters in a row, and I feel like it affected us more two years ago. This year what’s interesting is some of the retailers didn’t buy as much because they had product left over from prior years, and then they were short. They still needed their spring orders and they were selling through a lot of their winter stuff, so I don’t feel like it really impacted us too much this year. I actually felt this year was pretty stable.

Pediped is now available in over 50 countries worldwide. Do you see a lot of the company’s growth coming from overseas?

Our core business will always be in the U.S., but there’s definitely a lot of potential for growth in the rest of the world, as it becomes a smaller place every year. We have a lot of great accounts in the U.K. and throughout Europe. Canada has always been a great market for us. And we’ve expanded our store numbers in Asia, in places such as Hong Kong and Singapore. Those are the three key markets we think have fantastic potential.

What do you think is the biggest way the children’s footwear industry has changed since Pediped first launched?

There have been a few new brands entering the market in recent years, and while it’s great to see new people coming up and trying to do things, there are still fewer brands now than there were, say, 10 years ago when we launched.

Does that make it easier or harder?

I don’t think it impacts us. We’re focused on doing what we do best. Our biggest challenge is just keeping the brand fresh and making sure people know about us—the same challenge we faced 10 years ago. You have new moms every year so you just have to make sure they know about your brand, and that you find them and they find you.

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