Fellas, if you’ve ever been jealous of us ladies for having online retailers supplying us with stylish yet affordable shoes, you may now rejoice: Greats, an online-only retailer of sneakers is now doing the same for you.
The company just picked up $1.5 million in seed funding to continue expanding its business. Resolute Ventures led the round, with participation from High Peaks Venture Partners, Mark Gerson of Gerson Lehman Group, the New England Patriots’ Adrian Wilson, and other unnamed investors.
Think of Greats as the men’s sneakers’ version of JustFab, or its recently-acquired competitor ShoeDazzle — an online-only brand and retailer of shoes, which are priced fairly moderately (Greats range from $59 to $200) largely because of the low overhead costs of being online-only.
And luckily for Greats, the market is looking quite good: In 2013, sales of sports footwear reached $22 billion at retail in the U.S., and nearly all the growth in men’s footwear came from growth in shoes at $100 and over, according to the company.
But if you’re concerned for the young brand about the challenge of competing with well-established brands such as Nike, Adidas, and so on — don’t be. The cofounders aren’t.
“Our entire model is built to compete with all of these brands,” cofounder and chief executive Ryan Babenzien told VentureBeat in an email.
“Trying to get on the wall at a major retailer is a difficult challenge for a myriad of reasons … it’s also a very archaic and inefficient model to sell to retailers. We eliminate that 2.5 – 3x markup by producing a great quality sneaker and selling it directly to the consumer for less than they would have paid if we sold to retailers,” said Babenzien.
“We’re also able to develop footwear more quickly and capitalize on macro trend moves due our five month long design-to-sale time frame — in comparison to the year long timeframe that legacy brands have,” he added.
“Since we sell online, we’re able to engage with and receive feedback directly from our customers, and eventually use data to our advantage to quickly make decisions. Being a direct-to-consumer mens footwear brand allows us to not only be more nimble than traditional mens footwear brands but also really capitalize on this in a way that legacy brands don’t,” he said.
Frankly, I don’t like to think of online retailers as “technology companies,” so I’m glad to see Greats know where it stands on the spectrum.
(Birchbox, I love you, but let’s admit to ourselves that you’re just a great marketing machine that sends me cheap cosmetics samples and just happens to have a website and some ecommerce tools.)
And since the company’s primary function is to design and produce great (get it?) men’s fashion, its immediate plans are to produce 10 new sneakers styles in the next 10 months before it slowly sets its sights on various other items, including socks, casual athletic-inspired apparel and accessories, and even international-only items.
Despite the cofounders’ confidence and experience in the industry, only time will tell if they will succeed — the market is already filled with established (and many, many less established) similar brans, so this mountain may be harder to scale than they anticipate.
Greats was founded in 2013 by footwear industry veterans Ryan Babenzien and Jon Buscemi, and is based in Brooklyn, New York.
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