Interview with Catherine Lobley of children's footwear brand Poco Nido
This week we’re featuring the new range of Outback-inspired shoes from Poco Nido. We also managed to catch up with founder and owner, Catherine Lobley, to find out more about her background in children’s footwear and to ask how her businesses has coped with the past 12 months:
What prompted you to set up Poco Nido in the first place?
“A lack of similar product; when I came up with the idea for channel elastic constructed baby shoes there was no competition. My own kids’ shoes wouldn’t stay on their feet when they were babies and with my footwear industry background, I knew I could do better.”
What sets Poco Nido apart from its competitors?
“The shoes we make are consistently high quality at a keen price point. The mini shoes are tested and certifiedby Intertek, every single season, to ensure no banned chemicals like lead or phthalates. We don’t add choke hazards like applique and sequins. Our Mini Shoes pull on and they stay on, we’re not fans of lost shoes! Our leather is chrome free and all our footwear is in line with recommended criteria to quality for barefoot friendly shoes. My background is footwear design and development so I know what I’m doing and I try to do it better, cheaper and safer than anyone else.”
Today’s parents are more discerning than ever – how do you keep your brand in line with current trends?
“I love this question! The simple answer is that we don’t. We brought printed baby shoes to market before anyone else and laser etching on leather walking shoes before anyone else. I’m not interested in trends. Kids this age don’t need fashion in this way. We find a shape and stick to it. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding a comfortable shoe your toddler likes and going back to buy another pair to discover the shape has changed. Function is key, form follows function.”
How have you managed to engage with both retailers and customers given we’re missing the all-important ‘touch and feel’ factor while stores are closed?
“We’re online, so that hasn’t been an issue for us for direct sales. I think our stockists are taking the brunt of that pressure. And selling to retailers hasn’t seemed to be an issue, we’re still getting plenty of enquiries. We have a lot of loyal clients so that’s something I am really thankful for.”
How else have you had to adapt the way you operate during the pandemic?
“My team are working from home but apart from that and a partial furlough, its business as usual. Our stock is picked and packed by a third party logistics company so as long as they are going into work then our shoes are going out.”
Why should a retailer stock Poco Nido?
“We’ve been voted Silver winners at the Junior design awards with our Mighty Shoes two years in a row for first walking shoes, and the Mini Shoes took bronze for best baby shoes three years in a row. We’ve been nominated for the German Design Award and have collected many other accolades along the way. We care more about the purpose, safety and fit of the shoe than the aesthetics, but thankfully we’re good at the aesthetics too. My father owned a shop and I learnt from him – keen price, fast turnover. So combine all these factors and you have a winner: Function, Fit, Price and Safety.
We’re a small brand, with ten years history. I’ve been in the footwear industry, designing and developing since I was 18, I’m now 44. Small brands need retailer support to avoid market monopoly from the big players, if we don’t get a chance then the next generation is wiped out and you are left with a creative black hole.”
Can you share any specific plans or developments for Poco Nido for the year ahead?
“We’re trying to navigate the mess that Brexit has caused for British businesses who don’t manufacture in the UK, so unfortunately it looks increasingly likely that relocating the business to an EU country will eat into a lot of my time. We had plans for bigger kids shoes but we need to make sure we can trade easily with the EU before we can do this.”