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How a Mid-Tier Footwear Brand Can Boost Recognition in a Flooded Market

Frank Cammarata is a veteran of the retail industry and the CEO of Camtrade, a value-oriented women’s footwear group encompassing two brands, Soft Comfort and Secret Celebrity. Camtrade focuses on what the CEO calls the “the trifecta,” a combination of value, fashion and comfort that he hopes will differentiate his brand.

However, women’s footwear is a crowded market—Cammarata estimates its total size to be around $80 billion—and Camtrade needs to continually generate brand recognition in order to succeed.

As such, the company recently launched an digital marketing initiative with an emphasis on boosting Camtrade’s social media presence, rote pathways for brand recognition in today’s age, but still largely untapped ground for many wholesale producers in apparel and footwear.

Now, a Google search for the words “soft comfort” yields results that could help shift the business.

“We came up first on Google under the words, ‘soft comfort,'” Cammarata told Sourcing Journal. “That doesn’t make us special or the second coming of Steve Madden. But, that didn’t happen by accident. We put a ton of work into Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. We hired a full-time social media person. We’re doing a lot of little things simultaneously to get the brand out there.”

In fact, the Soft Comfort brand was so named specifically to appeal to potential consumers without the need to create any recognition in the first place.

“The words ‘soft’ and ‘comfort’ bode well for opened-up sandal product,” Cammarata explained. “We’ve really seen quite a nice reception toward sandal product in that brand.”

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Companies like Camtrade can sometimes struggle to get past the red tape presented by buyers and retailers at major outlets. However, because Camtrade leads with product innovation and quality and an accessible price point—its footwear is typically found in the $49 to $59 price range—Cammarata usually only expects only one reaction once those early hurdles are cleared.

“When we get the product to retail, the customer responds well,” the CEO explained.

Pressed about growth plans for a footwear company of this size, Cammarata warned against overextending a brand’s core product lineup before properly establishing its reputation in the marketplace. By sticking to this strategy, Camtrade has been able to create brand recognition using both the inherent qualities and cache of carefully chosen brand names and a cost-effective marketing strategy driven through digital channels.

But regardless of initial strategy, market shifts always play a large role in where brands like this can go.

For instance, the market played a large role in the rollout of leather into Camtrade’s lines. Previously, Soft Comfort and Secret Celebrity were more than content to produce shoes composed of manmade materials at their preferred price point. However, when retail forces gave the brand a reason to bring up the price and bring in natural leather, it was an obvious choice.

“We really started off in the manmade business and now we’re evolving into more leather—calfskins, suedes, nubucks,” Cammarata said. “We know a lot of the independent’s want $80 to $100 shoes. If that’s what they want, that’s what we’ll give them. But we wanted to make sure the brand was more developed and in a good position.”

Another way Camtrade is leveraging its limited name recognition is through a new promotion. Starting in June, Camtrade will announce a new “Secret Celebrity” each month that the brand will then shout out on its website and through its various social media platforms. Echoing the brand’s down-to-earth profile, this Secret Celebrity will not be the week’s hottest influencer, but rather someone who is well-known through their local community for being a good citizen.

For Soft Comfort, Camtrade is finding that simplicity and ease go hand-in-hand with what people expect from a brand that prides itself on visible comfort features. Even in the early days of February, Cammarata said that the brand’s hottest selling style was a simple cross-band sandal with a plush footbed that came with a few fashion-oriented colorways.

Looking ahead, Camtrade also dropped hints that it would be looking to bring its expertise in open-toed footwear to the outdoors with a new unit of hiking-inspired sandals coming in 2020.