After a difficult couple of years, the company has a new philanthropic focus.

Toms, an ethical shoe brand, made it big by making customers feel good about purchasing shoes. It donated a pair each time it sold shoes. Then, consumers stopped buying.

The US brand is now on the rebound with a new profit-sharing structure and a fresh image. The slip-ons will be available in a chunky soled version for Gen Z-ers who are comfortable enough to wear with their socks up.

Magnus Wedhammar joined the company in 2020 as chief executive. It has now replaced Toms’ “one for one” shoe-giving promise where it worked with humanitarian organizations to give a pair of shoes to children in need with a commitment that a third will go to non-profit grassroots organizations. It will give away as much as it can, while still maintaining its lights with grants to community groups that promote mental health, end gun violence, and improve access to education.

pair of white-and-black low-top sneakers near black skirt on brown clothes hanger top view photography

Wedhammar says, “It’s not secret that Toms has struggled over the past couple of years and we were in decline.” The company still moves about $250m per year (PS180m), but it is working to attract new customers who are more interested in ethical shopping than their parents.

The Toms turnaround has been helped by the shift to home work, which has seen dress shoes become buried in wardrobes. While Covid store closings have hurt its wholesale business, the website had an amazing year.

Wedhammar admits that the colourful espadrilles look “kind of like a slipper” – an “indoor/outdoor slipper”. “We sold a lot less casual shoes, which people wear to work and school, but more espadrilles.”

Blake Mycoskie, an American entrepreneur, founded Toms in Los Angeles in 2006. Blake Mycoskie, an American entrepreneur, created Toms in Los Angeles in 2006. He sold everything from babygrows to backpacks. In 2013-14, you could not move without stepping on someone’s slip-ons and skinny jeans.

Mycoskie sold half of the company to Bain Capital at the height its success. The deal valued the company at just $600m, including debt. But it ended in tears. Toms, who couldn’t repay a $300m loan the next year, was taken over the creditors of the company, a group that included Jefferies and other financial investors.

Wedhammar said that the debt level was “crippling” and made it impossible to invest “whatever we felt we should invest”. Mycoskie’s financial involvement was ended by the restructuring, but the company now has more favorable financial structures.

Fashion is a volatile business, but trainers have taken over. Wedhammar says, “The tsunami of sneakers that hit the market was amazing.” “I don’t think Toms responded quickly enough to changing market trends.”

Toms is now back to basics. Its UK stores and sidelines like coffee have been closed. Instead of donating a week’s worth to someone in need, it now focuses on getting its unique shoes back on the fashion radar.

Amy Smith, chief strategy and impact officer of Toms, is the same position recently held by Prince Harry at Silicon Valley startup BetterUp. She says that the business model was modified to “keep pace with the consumer and what they actually care about”.

She says that the fourteen years of shoe-giving has taught her a lot about giving well. This allows us to be more flexible in our response to the changing world. Since the beginning, we have been committed to improving lives. This mission will not change.”

Young shoppers are especially interested in ethical brands that stand for issues. However, it is becoming harder for companies to stand apart in a crowded market.

“It is important to stand up and push boundaries. Over time, people will follow you if it is done well. So it becomes standard. You need to keep moving one step further to be at the forefront,” Laetitia Mimoun in London, who is a lecturer on marketing at the Business School.

To make a difference, Toms must convince people to purchase its shoes. Wedhammar predicts that 2021 will be the year it returns to healthy growth.

He says, “We are currently working on tons and tons of different versions [of alpargata]”. Pictures of the Mallow with thick soles are kept under wraps.

The brand is also looking to expand its product range, including clothing and accessories. It recently signed a partnership agreement with a sock company. I can see a huge trend in socks, sandals, and crew socks. Wedhammar says that we will do both.

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