One decade ago, TOMS was stepping toward world domination. The footwear brand was known for its distinct espadrilles and its “buy one, give one” model. Each time someone bought a pair of shoes, another pair was donated to a child in need.
In the early 2010s, wearing TOMS was a statement that meant that you were fashionable and philanthropic. The brand was valued at $625 million in 2014, but by 2019, creditors took over the company. The company had a $300 million loan due in 2020, and it wasn’t expected to be able to pay it off.
Like most fashion trends, TOMS doesn’t seem to be infinitely popular. But, it hoped its charitable efforts would prolong its favor in the public’s eye. Despite this, the shoes are far less popular than they were in prior years. You can still buy them, but there are many reasons why people are spending their dollars elsewhere.
Fashion is fickle
TOMS offers its customers a variety of products including different shoe styles and glasses — it even sold coffee at one point. However, it’s primarily recognized for the Alpargata shoe, which once made up roughly 50% of its sales.
It seems TOMS’ signature styles are becoming dated, and it’s forcing the company to pivot into different offerings like sneakers. This still falls under the footwear umbrella, but it does represent a new image for the brand.
However, the brand can’t stray too far from its identity. It’s known for offering sustainable shoes (though not all styles are vegan), and those values are core to its customer base. TOMS is trying to strike a balance of being fashion-friendly while still retaining its brand identity and sticking to its eco-friendly values.
It’s easy to copy
When people think of TOMS, one style likely comes to mind: The brand is synonymous with the canvas slip-on espadrille. It’s a cheap, easy shoe to make, but there’s a problem: TOMS doesn’t own this design.
Most notably, Sketchers introduced BOBS in 2010, and it essentially template-matched TOMS’ business model. It offered…