A couple of years ago – during a trip back to the United States – a pair of shoes caught my eye as I walking by an anonymous store-front window. These weren’t just ordinary shoes, they looked like regular kid’s sneakers but they had retractable wheels on the bottom. Thinking to myself that “Ã¢Â?Â¦my daughter will sure get a kick out theseÃ¢Â?Â¦” I picked up a pair and took them back with me to Southern Italy. Little did I know that not only had I just laid my hands on one of the hottest items being sold in the USA, but what would turn out to be one of the hottest products ever to debut in Europe and abroad.
Welcome to the world of the Roller-shoe.
Heelys shoe company launched its roller-shoes back in 2001 and hasn’t looked back since. Now let’s be honest, most novelty items (and that’s what the roller-shoe is) have a brief shelf-life. Anyone remember 3-D glasses? Of course not, you’re all too young. The 3-D craze lasted less than a year: a few comic books, a spate of movies and that was it. It would seem logical that roller-shoes would suffer the same fate. Better explain that to the American public. After 4 years on the market, the concept finally caught on and sales of the Heelys roller-shoe just EXPLODED. I mean, Heelys’ profits increased 106% in 2005 ( to 44 million dollars), and in the first six months of 2006, profits are up 60% MORE – with projected year-end profits to be around 64 million dollars.
Since their debut, Heelys has sold about 4 million pairs of roller-shoes. Heelys’ slogan for the roller-shoe may be “Freedom is a Wheel in your Soul”, but for them it’s just “money in the bank”.
Getting back to my daughter, she took to those shoes like a fish to water. The envy of her friends, you just couldn’t find roller-shoes on the local market. I should have seen it coming, if I could have imported those babies maybe I’d be writing with a better laptop. No matter. Roller-shoes are debuting in Europe and beginning to post the same big numbers as they did back in the United States. Great Britain is projecting sales of 200,000 pairs of roller shoes in 2006 (where they’re will cost a lot more), and Italy is hoping for similar numbersÃ¢Â?Â¦and profits.
Naturally, you’re gonna have folks who jump on the bandwagon. A company that specializes in tire-chains for driving in heavy snow has come out with “shoe-chains” that slip over your shoes so you don’t fall on your butt. Another company just debuted “shoe umbrellas” – little umbrellas that attach to the toe of your shoe and keep your shoes dry when it rains. And perhaps the show with the most potential for mega-sales. The Mp3 shoe. The Mp3 unit slips into your shoe and little heel-mounted speakers let you catch a tune anywhere. These have already debuted in Europe and sell for about Ã¢Â?Â¬166.00 euro (about $190.00 dollars) a pair. I’m lucky that my kid hasn’t seen these yet.
But getting back to the roller-shoe, despite some schools making the shoe illegal to wear to class (claiming it’s a safety-threat because some kids have been clocked zipping along at an incredible 50mph) sales and profits just keep roller-skating along. For their part, Heelys doesn’t recommend using the roller-skate option while in school.
The shoe is getting so popular that Heelys has inaugurated September 9th to be “National Heelys Day” – a special day when kids can learn all there is to learn about roller shoes. And hopefully pick up a pair or two while you’re at it.
The key to the success of the shoes apparently isn’t that there are wheel attached. If that were the case, regular roller-skates would be selling like wildfire. No, the thing that pleases both kids and parents is that the wheels are retractable. When you want to fly, you pull down the wheels and you’re of. When you want to walk, you press a button and the wheels return to their little nest inside the sole of the shoe and no one is the better.
And here’s another shocker for you: the main market for the roller-shoe may be kids age 6 to 14, but lest you think it’s only children who reaping the benefits of shoes with wheels than think again. They are starting to catch on with college students and grown-ups as well, prompting Heelys to come out with an adult line of roller shoe as well.