FootSmart parent steps out with new shoe catalog

The oldest of the baby boomers are turning 60 this year, but that doesn’t mean they want to wear the same sort of comfy but styleless shoes their grandparents wore when they were 60.

With that in mind, Atlanta-based health and footcare merchant Benchmark Brands has launched WalkSmart, a consumer catalog and Website targeting female boomers. The catalog complements Benchmark’s FootSmart catalog and Website, which sells “lower-body health” products ranging from support undergarments to exercise equipment to footwear.

The 48-page WalkSmart catalog is scheduled to be in homes this month, coinciding with the launch of a WalkSmart Website. Benchmark Brands will drop 750,000 catalogs for its first mailing, says president Alan Beychok. About 25% of the books will be mailed to FootSmart customers, while the other 75% will come from prospect lists. According to its data card, FootSmart has more than 700,000 12-month buyers, nearly three-quarters of whom are women.

Although the average age of FootSmart’s customers is 61, according to its data card, “we’ve been focused on the boomers from the beginning through our FootSmart catalog,” Beychok says. “But there is a gap in the market. There is not really a specific Website or catalog that is targeting this group. We’ve found that once women cross the age of 40, they are more interested in comfort but do not want to sacrifice style.”

Happy feet

The WalkSmart collection includes Benchmark Brand’s favorite picks of about 30 European and American footwear brands that fit the WalkSmart comfort and style criteria. In addition, the company created a range of shoe comfort accessories for women’s shoes called Peda-Bella, which will include a line of socks with built-in gel pads — an industry first, Beychok says.

The product overlap for the initial WalkSmart catalog is about 70% with the FootSmart title’s merchandise. The company’s goal is to eventually reduce that overlap to 20%, Beychok says.

Though the target audience is buyers of women’s footwear, 5% of the WalkSmart catalog product line will be men’s shoes.

Beychok says the plan is to drop four catalogs this year and roll out its full marketing plan in 2007. He also notes that Benchmark Brands will aggressively prospect with co-op lists, test rental lists, and use its FootSmart file to build its customer database.

The company will also add 15 seats to its inhouse call center, bringing it to 55 seats, since WalkSmart will share FootSmart’s call center, operations, and fulfillment. Benchmark Brands is also expanding it warehouse. While the facility will remain in Memphis, TN, it will move it to a 250,000-sq.-ft. building in 2007.

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