Quality Isn’t Expensive…It’s Priceless.

As we approach the busiest shopping season of the year, it is a good time to reflect on the idea of quality in consumer products. Studies in academia and across the web suggest that actual product quality and perceived quality, while closely tied, both rank near the top of the importance list, along with price, in the minds of consumers.

Over the past decade a few clothing and footwear companies have taken the idea of product quality to new levels. Some of these companies have begun offering their own in-house repair services to encourage customers to have damaged items fixed and reused instead of throwing them away. Still other companies have even gone so far as to begin to resell old, used items to encourage use by multiple people and even, in some cases, multiple generations. By setting aside traditional notions of discarding an item after it takes on a minimal amount of wear, these companies have infused their consumers with a sense of reuse/renew/recycle that speaks heavily to the product quality side of their business. The customers for these companies take pride in telling you the age of their jacket, for example, and in many cases, the older the better. As a consumer, wouldn’t you place a high value on a product that could be repaired over and over again to look and feel nearly like new?

When I began my time as a Store Manager in the spring of 2013 at our Happy Feet Plus store in Clearwater, FL, I heard a lot of talk about this mythical hand-made German brand that we carried called Finn Comfort. I had sold dozens of brands of shoes over my career to that point, but Finn had not been one of them. Then a customer walked into our store a few weeks into my time there, proudly holding his Finns and announcing that he just needed a resole, as he’d gotten his Finns from us in 1998. I was a bit skeptical, as the shoes looked to be no more than six months to a year old. The customer told me that he loved his Finns and that this would be his third resole since he purchased the shoes from us 15 years prior. He hadn’t needed to do anything else to the shoes other than just the occasional polish. Again, I was skeptical, but I tried to keep an open mind. Then, over the next few months, many more Finn Comfort owners arrived at the store proudly carrying their shoes and telling us that they’d had them for five, eight, ten years or more. All these customers needed were replacement insoles or new outsoles for their shoes, which could both be had for less money than purchasing a new pair. And every Finn customer seemed to take a special pride in how long their shoes had lasted.

Like the clothing companies noted above, at Happy Feet Plus we also offer our own in-house repair service, and we have been expertly resoling and repairing Finn Comfort shoes and Birkenstocks for over 25 years. We believe in the products that we sell, but we also take pride in being able to take a cherished 15-year-old pair of Finns and make them look and feel like new. This practice reduces consumer waste, so it’s easier on the planet, and it offers our customers the peace of mind that our hand-made German shoes last and last.

So, this holiday season, as you’re shopping for your friends and loved ones, take a moment to consider the quality of the items that you’re buying. Is it worth spending a little more for an item that may last four or five times as long? By purchasing for quality, you may just be creating another priceless experience.

-by Matt LaBarge 10/30/14

Local Independent Businesses: Why Should We Care?

If you’re like me, and you’ve ever marveled at the multi-hued array of locally owned shopping and dining choices that accompany a walk down Main Street in Dunedin or Safety Harbor, FL or places like Austin, TX, Burlington, VT, or Bellingham, WA, for that matter, then you have at least the beginnings of an appreciation for locally-owned, independent businesses. But while many of us can attest to the unique variety that local independents offer their respective communities, a slightly deeper look at the real economic effects that locally-owned businesses have on their surroundings can provide some real insight into their true value.

Building on its earlier studies of the impacts of local businesses in Austin, Chicago, and San Francisco, in 2008 the group Civic Economics conducted a study that focused on the Grand Rapids, MI metro area. The study found that if Grand Rapids residents were to shift just 10% of their yearly spending to locally-owned independent businesses, the resulting economic effect would generate over 1600 local jobs and put over $137 million back into the local economy. The population of the area of Kent County, MI that was covered by the study was about 770,000 at the time.

Let’s stop here for a second. Many of you probably read the above statement about Grand Rapids, like I did at first, and thought, “There is no way that I can afford to spend an extra 10% every year just to support the local economy!” But, very importantly, you may notice that the study didn’t imply that residents spend an extra 10% but instead simply shift 10% of what they already spend from non-local chains to local independents.

Now, if I may, let me throw a few more numbers at you…The population of Pinellas County, FL, where our Happy Feet Plus company began 29 years ago and continues to be based today, was roughly 921,000 in 2012. If we apply the findings of the Grand Rapids study to our home here in Pinellas County, a 10% shift in spending to local businesses by the residents of our county could mean the creation of over 1900 local jobs and an influx of over $163 million into the local economy.

If we move beyond Pinellas County and apply the Grand Rapids numbers to the entire Tampa Bay area, the result is nothing short of staggering. With its population of roughly 2.8 million, the Tampa Bay metro area could see over 5800 local jobs created and an influx of nearly $500 million into the local economy from a simple 10% shift to local spending by its residents.

But how does this happen? How does a shift to more local spending really generate more money in the local economy? The answer is simple. Dozens of local, regional, and state-level business studies conducted around the country over the past ten years have shown that, on average, for every $100 spent at a non-local chain, about $43 stays in the local economy, while for every $100 spent at a locally-owned, independent business, about $73 stays in the local economy.pie-chart-economy_big

The definition of “local” can vary based on the size and scope of the municipality in question, but most of the independent business organizations around the country define a “local” business as the following:

1)      A business that has its headquarters within the given local area and

2)      A business whose owners and employees reside in the given local area.

The Grand Rapids survey, notably, did not include publicly held firms whose headquarters were in the Grand Rapids area.  In many cases, the shareholders of publicly held firms live in other cities, states, or even other countries, thus making it less likely for them to directly contribute to the local economies where their businesses are headquartered.

While there are obvious economic benefits to buying local, many other benefits exist as well. Those additional benefits include things like the tendency of local businesses to offer more diversity of selection and their tendency to put less strain on local infrastructure and ecosystems. The case for buying local is summed up nicely in this document from Local First Vermont.

So, why do we care so much about local, independent businesses at Happy Feet Plus? Well, quite simply, we are, and always have been one.

If you’ve been on the “about us” page on our website at happyfeet.com, you may already know that our business started with a little kiosk in Tyrone Square Mall in St. Pete in 1985, and that we continue to run our business under the same ownership and just 20 minutes up the road from Tyrone Square in Largo, FL today. In keeping with another typical trait of local independents, our owners are quite easily accessible, as their desks sit exactly 50 feet from where I am typing this in our corporate offices. Our nine (soon to be ten) stores are all located within about an hour of the Tampa Bay area, and every year we participate in many community-based activities from fun runs to health benefit galas to the Pride Parade. In 2004, our Clearwater store, with its solar panels, native plants, and cistern for collecting water for irrigation and sewer use, became the first retail space in the country to receive LEED Gold Certification.  LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a nationally recognized building program administered by the U.S. Green Building Council that recognizes achievements and innovation in eco-friendly architectural design.  All of these things, from location and accessibility to community involvement to eco friendly store designs, we hope, contribute in some way to richer choices and richer lives for our employees, our customers, and our community.

And finally, if you’re one of our many online customers, and you’re reading this from, say, North Platte, Nebraska and wondering why if I am arguing in favor of local businesses you should care about a small footwear company from Largo, Florida, please remember that at some point you’re fairly likely to be one of the 84 million visitors that Florida receives each year. When that day comes, rest assured that this local independent, like thousands of others in our area, is doing what it can to make its corner of the Sunshine State a little brighter.

Birkenstock Arizona: Summer Fashion Trend of 2013

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Birkenstock Arizona’s are in the news everywhere lately.  They are the Hot Summer Fashion for 2013.  They were listed in Vogue’s June 2013 issue on the article called: The ugly-Pretty Sandal: “Ten Takes on Summer’s Must-Have Shoe.”  Rated as #5 Birkenstock Milano in Hunter black.  Also Birkenstock has been highlighted in Harper’s Bazaar, Nylon Guys, Glamour,  GQ, Vogue UK and many more. These comfy shoes have been embraced by fashion designers, editors, and even Hollywood celebs, such as Heidi Klum, Selma Blair, Mary- Kate Olsen and Ashton Kutcher have all been spotted sporting their Birkenstocks of various styles, such as Gizeh, Arizona and Milano.  Get in the trend and get yourself some Birkenstock sandals this summer you wont regret it.  They are designed for comfort and they make your feet Happy!!!

Interesting Birkenstock Fact: 1973: The Arizona, the style that has become synonymous with the Birkenstock brand, is introduced. Birkenstock’s popularity explodes during the 1970s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sale Continues…..

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Our Summer Solstice Sale is continuing on and you better hurry up and take advantage of this great offer!  How can you beat $10 off online purchases of all Birkenstock Sandals.  Also for all the Finn Comfort lovers out there we are offering a special promotion for a limited time only, when you purchase any pair of Finn Comfort Shoes, Sandals or Clogs and get yourself a FREE pair of socks :)

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Interesting Facts:

Finn Comfort footwear provides serious support for your feet, as well as for your entire body. Finn Comfort uses premium quality leathers and natural cork and latex. Old world craftsmanship combined with orthopedic design produces exceptionally comfortable shoes, sandals and clogs.

Finn Comfort’s Prevention Series is designed to help avert foot injuries by protecting your feet from friction and abrasion. The design and construction helps prevent simple problems from becoming more serious.

Summer Solstice Sale

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Interesting Birkenstock Fact:

Birkenstock Madrid Sandals – The original that started it all. Known as the Birkenstock Fitness Sandal in Europe, this design tones the foot and calf muscles while improving circulation. This timeless one strap features the famous Birkenstock contoured footbed, fully adjustable strap and shock absorbing EVA sole.

Not to mention when you purchase them online not only do you get $10.00 Off your getting FREE SHIPPING as well, you can’t beat it!!!

 

Come get your Foot Relief!!!!

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Come visit us in store to take advantage of these great deals.  Need new Orthotics?  Well it’s time to pick some up at $10 off and you just can’t go wrong grabbing some Kenkoh Massage Sandals with $10 off as well.  You may not see this price again so may as well go ahead and grab em while it lasts.

Interesting Kenkoh Info:

Kenkoh Massage Insole

The heart of the Kenkoh Health Sandal is the massage insole.

The massage insole stimulates areas of the sole of the foot which correspond to all the glands, organs and parts of the body. The rubber (latex) insole nodules act like tiny fingers, applying pressure to the sole of the foot. As in Shiatsu and Reflexology healing techniques, the Kenkoh Health Sandal massages the feet when you walk, stand or sit with even light pressure on the sole.

It has been known for thousands of years that stimulating the individual Reflexology Zones on the sole contributes to the health of organs and muscles. Shiatsu therapists massage the soles of the feet in order to stimulate the body’s energy flow and rebalance the body.

When various reflex points are stimulated they induce a healing response. Standing on the Kenkoh Health Sandal creates a feeling much like that felt during a Reflexology massage session. Key nerve endings are stimulated which energizes organs, body functions and blood flow. Walking in the Kenkoh Health Sandals creates a rhythmic pressure on the soles of the feet similar to the rhythmic massage of a skilled Shiatsu therapist.

The research study conducted by the Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine has provided modern scientific evidence of the health benefits of the Kenkoh Health Sandals.

Healthy Happy Feet

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You too can have Healthy Happy Feet by coming into our stores and purchasing yourself some Thong Sandals on sale $10-$20 off.  Sale ends 5/19/2013.

Click here to find your nearest location:  http://happyfeetplus.com/store-locator/

Happy Feet Plus features Birkenstock shoes, sandals, and clogs for men and women including the entire Birkenstock family of footwear – Alpro, Birki’s, Footprints, Papillio and Tatami. In addition, we are a primary retailer of the Finn Comfort line of products. We are also the North American distributor for the Kenkoh Reflexology Massage Health sandals. We offer free shipping on all orders for our shoes, sandals or clogs. All of our health and comfort footwear provide relief from foot, knee and back pain.

Interesting Fact of the Week:

How Reflexology Massage Sandals Actually Help

Excess wastes, such as Uric Acid and Lactic Acid crystallize and gravitate to the feet. The accumulation of these wastes may impede proper nerve function and blood circulation causing tired aching feet.

The gentle massaging action of the Kenkoh “fingers” helps to break up the accumulated crystals in the feet. These crystals do have sharp edges and putting pressure on them may cause discomfort for some people initially. This is the most important function. Breaking up the crystals and restoring function to your nerves and reflex zones is the magic transformation! The sandals also stimulate blood flow and help to flush the acidic crystals from the circulatory system. Drink extra water during initial therapy (see “Wearing Recommendations”.)

Dormant or sluggish nerve endings in the Sole Reflexive Zones are stimulated as well. This stimulation contributes to improving the health and function in related organs and muscles throughout the body.

Earth Day Celebration 2013

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Celebration starts April 18, 2013 and ends on April 28, 2013.  Come in to a local store to take advantage of this great offer and “Walk the Earth with Happy Feet!”

Also don’t forget our stores are also still running the Select 2 of any style, any size any brand and get $20 off until April 21, 2013.  So hurry up and get inside for your 2 pair deal!

Interesting Birkenstock Fact: 1996: Birkenstock USA celebrates its 30th anniversary. Birkenstock offers almost 300 style/color combinations, and the footwear is distributed to millions of people throughout the United States.

Online Shoppers! Check out our specials and get em while they last!

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Online for a limited time only:  All Birkenstock Soft Footbed Sandals Save $20.00, plus get $10 off Arizona Birkibuc and Birko-Flor Sandals as well.

Save $10 On Kenkoh Sandals & $20 On All Finn Comforts!

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Save $10 on Kenkoh Japanese Massage Sandals and $20 on all styles of Finn Comfort shoes

This sale lasts for a limited time and is available in-store only! Visit our Store Locator page to find the location nearest to you.

Kenkoh Japanese Massage Sandals are the original reflexology sandal. Tiny nodules encourage a massaging action that soothes and relaxes the whole body, improves circulation and aids in recovery.

Finn Comfort shoes are known in some circles as the Cadillac of footwear. An all-purpose shoe for those who need great support and comfort whenever they’re on their feet.