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Aldo can't depend on heritage for Shellys' success

Aldo’s wholesale arm APS is hoping to return footwear brand Shellys to its glory days. But the business must rely on more than ’90s nostalgia to survive, writes Ruth Falkner.

There was a time in the 1980s and early 1990s that Shellys was considered one of the only high street footwear brands catering to a fashion-focused customer.

The British high street was at that time dominated by the British Shoe Corporation (BSC), the parent company of high street footwear mainstays Freeman Hardy Willis, Dolcis and True Form, none of which were thought to be offering anything exciting.

Shellys was seen in a different light. Operating as a wholesale brand and out of its three central London stores it catered to a consumer that could only previously buy fashion forward footwear from market stalls.

But by 2007 it was a very different story. Fashion footwear was everywhere. Footwear sales in the likes of Primark, Next, New Look and even some supermarkets was booming, and the brands which had once proved so popular were struggling as a result.

That was the year Shellys stores were shut, and in March 2008 the Shellys brand name and intellectual property was sold to Hong Kong-based footwear supplier Eternal Best Industries.

It still exists as a wholesale brand today but with nowhere near the notoriety and distribution it once enjoyed.

So the deal struck by Canadian footwear giant Aldo to breathe new life into the old favourite by aiming it at a younger customer for autumn 13 is great news for those who remember its glory days.

Aldo Product Services has used its power and good track record to secure deals with the likes of Asos in the UK and Nordstrom in the US and the pictures of the product I have seen look strong.

But APS’ target customer is 16-24 years old - too young to bank on those with fond memories of heading to the flagship on Oxford Circus, who might buy simply out of nostalgia. It has a fantastic heritage, but there has to be much more to a brand if it is to succeed in a competitive mid-market high street.

Nowadays customers have their pick of the high street when it comes to footwear, and that means the design principles at Shellys are paramount if it is going to make the leap from the fringes it has been consigned to over the last six years.

While the price points have lowered, £40 for a flat shoe remains a lot more expensive than the same product in Primark or New Look. As a result the quality, as well as the design, of the products will have to be good to ensure that the often cash-strapped 20-somethings will part with their money.

Launching on Asos is an astute move that should play well to its plans to attract a younger, fashion-savvy buyer.

Getting the distribution right is half the battle but the product, marketing and messaging will have to remain consistent if this great name is to return to the level it once was.

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