It's a good bet that a successful pilot of this new Zappos program could spark other footwear innovation.
Amazon-owned Zappos has started to sell single shoes and mixed-sized pairs to consumers as part of pilot, an effort sparked by apparently deep consumer demand. The program also reflects increased personalization efforts in retail, as well the growing availability of apparel for people with disabilities.
The pilot program could appeal to people who have differently sized feet or use prosthetics, collectors, consumers who have lost shoes and shoppers who just want to add variety to their lives by wearing mixed pairs.
For now, the pilot includes only six shoe brands: Nike, Stride Rite, New Balance, Plae, Converse and Billy Footwear. Prices range from $17.50 to $85, and sizes and width span from toddler to adult.
The pilot, launched in July, stems from an existing program called Zappos Adaptive. That’s a dedicated online shopping area that offers shoes and apparel for disabled people or consumers who for various reasons have trouble putting on footwear or clothes. Products sold through Zappos Adaptive include slip-on shoes and shirts that have magnets instead of buttons, which can prove difficult for people with arthritis or other ailments.
New York-based Coresight Research estimates that the market for shoes designed for people with health problems and disabilities will reach $10.6 billion by 2024, up from $8 billion this year.
“The Single and Different Size Shoes Test Program is very close to our hearts – we wanted our community to know that we heard them, and continue to listen and innovate based on their needs and wants,” said Dana Zumbo, business development manager, Zappos Adaptive. “Customer service is our No. 1 goal, and we're endlessly committed to ensuring that everyone feels comfortable and confident in their own shoe or shoes."
Consumer demand for single shoes and mixed pairs is pretty high, at least judging by the amount of requests for those products received by Las Vegas-based Zappos over the years. Reportedly, shoe wholesalers also receive similar requests -- perhaps a sign that more such innovation in this area of retail is on its way, especially if the Zappos pilot proves successful.