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Tuesday, Jun 6, 2023

Company Tries European Shoe Experiment in Valley

Can an Italian shoe concept marketed in Switzerland get traction in Canoga Park? A New York entrepreneur is test marketing a new shoe store concept imported from Europe in Westfield’s Topanga shopping center this holiday season. Michael Gitter, who co-founded MaxRacks, the postcard advertising racks found in trendy restaurants nationwide, last week opened his newest venture, Zoccolino, with plans to adapt the concept that first began in Italy to the American market. Zoccolino, which means little clogs, offers a hundred different styles for the top of the sandals along with 15 different bottoms and a gaggle of embellishments which can all be mixed into what the company says is a million different combinations and made in the store in about one-half hour’s time. A Swiss businesswoman brought the handcraft to Zurich about a year ago, and since then Zoccolino has been distributed through the Swiss department store Globus and the company’s owned store. Gitter’s ForSale LLC acquired the licensing rights for the U.S. after seeing the boutiques in Basel, Switzerland. “You walk into this small store and you can make over 1 million different shoe styles,” Gitter said. “You can pick the accessories that you want to match your personality, to match your clothing, and you can walk out 30 minutes later with the product on your feet. That’s what I loved about it. But the execution requires managing a lot of moving parts lots of different inventory and an as-yet unknown number of trained cobblers available to assemble the shoes and Gitter needed a location where he could test the operation before rolling it out. “It’s an open toe sandal, so I wanted a climate that was warm. I picked the Valley because I wanted to ramp this up slowly,” Gitter said. In Switzerland, Zoccolinos, which were originally designed by a podiatrist, are primarily marketed to the over-40 generation, and the selection is geared accordingly. “To target somebody that has bad feet is not what I think we should do,” said Gitter. “We’re looking at the demographic being anywhere from tweens to twenties and up to thirties, and that’s another reason we’ve selected to do the test.” The U.S. store, for example will feature wedge style heels instead of the flat heels marketed in Europe, and the accessories will include jewel-like pieces, or bling that dominates a lot of today’s fashions. The stores will be set up with raised platforms lit like a fashion shoot where customers will be fitted for their shoes. The license does not require Zoccolino USA to buy the shoe’s components from the Swiss, and Gitter foresees commissioning artists, celebrities and other designers to create the decorative elements.

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