Bobux is an Original in the Shoe Business Worldwide

The Bobux Team

In January, Bobux, the children’s shoe brand, celebrates its twentieth anniversary! Designers and parents Chris and Colleen Bennett invented the original pre-walker shoe in New Zealand to help their own child. Before Bobux, retailers and parents were largely not aware of the benefits of footwear for babies. Pre-walker shoes has become a growing product category worldwide, with many competitive brands touting their features and fashions. Bobux gives The Giggle Guide® a “Behind The Brand” look at its company, from its first baby steps to the great strides it has taken in its product expansion and marketing to families around the world. We, of course, especially love the latest Bobux brand slogan: “Giggle & Grow…Naturally!”

When was your brand born, and what was the initial inspiration?

Bobux International Ltd. was formed in January 1991 when New Zealand designers Chris and Colleen Bennett launched a unique, innovative and new category of soft-soled leather shoes for children under their brand, Bobux. Chris invented the original and distinctive styling of the original Bobux shoes for his oldest daughter Chloe when she was 9 months old. Chris, an architect, remembers “My daughter’s shoes had laces that kept coming undone and falling off her feet. This was a source of constant frustration for my wife and I and knew there had to be a better way. I took some of her shoes, replaced the laces with elastic and at the same time observed she loved wearing her cotton pre-walkers with the soft fabric soles.”

Soon, leather and suede replaced the cotton uppers and soles. With the addition of some clever design features, such as adding the original Bobux elastic ankle device, a new shoe category was born! Word soon began to spread and enquiries started flooding in from countries around the world. Since Bobux first introduced the world to its soft soled leather shoes that stay on, many imitators have copied the original Bobux elastic ankle design concept. However says Chris, “Imitation is the ultimate form of flattery.” Currently, Bobux products are sold in over 18 countries worldwide including most countries in Europe, as well as the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when starting?

In 1996, Bobux was introduced to the USA on a small scale. In 1999, RT Nash, Inc. took over U.S. distribution and began to aggressively market the product and brand. At that time, we were focusing on EDUCATING the consumer about the product. Parents needed to understand WHY babies NEED soft soled leather shoes, as the category was new and unique to the USA market. We advertised heavily in consumer magazines, and via direct marketing programs to the end consumer. Competitors entered the market at the same time, and this actually benefited Bobux by raising the awareness of the category. In the first 5 years, Bobux sales doubled year over year.

What is one thing you would have done differently?

In the first few years we contracted with gift reps. We tapped into a strong network and hired dozens via several groups across the nation. The quantity of reps we had initially was very impressive! They were very successful in opening new accounts, but the reorders were disappointing. While Bobux do sell fairly well in some gift stores today, our strongest market is upscale children’s/baby boutiques and kids’ shoe stores. We learned quickly we should have recruited independent representatives who call on children’s boutiques and travel. The majority of our business is written on the road (vs. showrooms).

What do you feel are the biggest keys to your success?

First and foremost, we have an excellent product! We are proud of the quality of our leather and the workmanship that goes into each and every pair. Bobux is dedicated to providing only the BEST for babies. Our Eco-leather is buttery soft, and the ankle elastic is not binding. The experienced design team in New Zealand launch new styles twice a year that are fun and fashionable around the globe.

In addition, we provide unprecedented customer service. Our orders ship within 24 hours, and buyers can always reach a “real” person during business hours! Experienced and friendly representatives are available weekdays from 8-5 MST. (24-hour answering machine is also available.)

Describe a typical new product development cycle for your business?

We release two product lines a year: Spring/Summer and Fall/Holiday. New product launches are a flurry of activity, with new catalogs, styles and lots of excitement. You might think that the “off season” times are more quiet…not the case! Our marketing and design teams spend countless hours researching new trends, colors and construction. Focus groups meet all over the world to discuss style, comfort and fit of Bobux shoes. Before we know it, it’s time to gear up for a new season again!

Do “green” or eco-friendly concerns influence your business decisions, and if so, how?

We take our eco-statement – may we each do our best to tread lightly on the earth – very seriously. We might be making shoes for these tiny feet today, but we also want to make a positive impact on the world they will enjoy long after they have grown out of their Bobux. New Zealanders have long been conscious about the affects humans have on the environment (well before Americans seem to have adopted the philosophy). Therefore, there has ALWAYS been a “green” aspect to Bobux.

The factory has only partnered with tanneries that follow very strict environmental guidelines to include on-site water treatment facilities. This ensures there is no wasted water during the dyeing process, and there are never any harmful chemicals used in the dyes.

What is one new trend you’re seeing in the marketplace?

Children Looking Like Miniature Adults” is a big trend that we are embracing. Little girls and boys love to have shoes and clothes that look like mom’s and dad’s. For example, this Spring we are introducing a line of boys loafers in sophisticated tonal colors without compromising Bobux comfort!

**What types of marketing have been most effective for your business? **

We have a strong team of sales agents who are passionate about and really BELIEVE in Bobux, and the mission statement behind our brand name. They do a great job of educating the buyers and explaining the benefits and features of Bobux. Bobux truly is THE “premium” brand on the market today!

In addition, we participate in several tradeshows throughout the year, and budget for advertising to the trade. Also, we advertise to the end consumer on line, and through consumer publications (some ads, and editorial).

How does your business make use of the Internet?

We advertise Bobux heavily via key word searches, to direct consumers and buyers to our Web site. Our site features a retailer locater which drives consumers into the stores.

Bobux International manages a worldwide Facebook page, and is moving into an aggressive social marketing program this year. We ensure our website is current and easy to navigate. Our customers and stores can also pop by to see the latest fan photos, styles, and celebrity babies who love Bobux!

What is the biggest challenge your business faces today?

Twenty years later, our shoes are still hand-made in New Zealand. That is one of the reasons that Bobux has such a loyal following of customers. However, dealing with the time zone difference and lengthy flights can be a challenge. Fortunately, we have found planning, planning and more planning ensures that everything goes smoothly!

Bobux is distributed WORLD WIDE in over 32 countries. It’s a challenge to provide designs and styles to appeal to tastes in different lands. As a result, Bobux offers a few unique and different styles to each market.

What is one change/addition that’s had a positive impact for your business in the last year?

A focus on natural wildlife and our environment are great trends that are here to stay! We have expanded on our Animal Friends collection, adding ten new animals this year! Children love looking at the happy and friendly faces on our Bobux shoes. Incorporating this into our styles is another way to encourage children to learn about and appreciate our Earth!

What is your one piece of advice for someone entering the children’s market?

Have fun! Providing products and serving this industry is a pleasure! The people in the industry tend to be very friendly and helpful. After all, what’s better than making parents, grandparents and kids smile?!

Because it is such an “appealing” market, there is a lot of competition! And the trends and demands are always changing! In addition, our customers are always changing! We are marketing to new parents and babies all the time.

It takes a lot of hard work and dedication but there are many rewards. The best reward is hearing from happy customers and happy buyers!

About Bobux

Bobux are the original soft-soled leather baby shoes for newborns through age five. The brand recently introduced I-Walk by Bobux, premium leather shoes with flexible, natural rubber soles. These high quality shoes feature padded insoles, leather linings and full leather uppers.

Why Buy Bobux Shoes?

  • No Minimums on Reorders! Minimum opening order is 18 pairs, and there are no minimums on reorders.
  • Bobux Eco-Leather! Boubux shoes are safe for baby and the environment! No harmful chemicals, and tanneries have water-treatment facilities.
  • Styles can be Exchanged! Customers can return shoes and exchange for other styles (as long as they are not discontinued.)
  • Made in New Zealand Bobux was established in 1991. They are still hand sewn today, mostly by specially-trained women who work out of their homes, so they can still care for their families.
  • Bobux are not Lined. Babies’ feet perspire more than adults’ do. Other brands have synthetic linings, but Bobux are 100% natural leather, offering highest level of comfort!
  • Designs Face Baby! Babies will react to the cute characters on Bobux shoes. Bobux are actually a development tool in this regard.
  • Orders Ship At Once! The goal is to ship all orders within 24 hours. The U.S. distributor is based in Colorado, so most orders are received within one week or less!

For more information, visit Phone: 800-315-3039

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