DRTV Gives Okabashi Shoes a Lift

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Back in the early '80s, when Bahman Irvani founded footwear maker Okabashi Brands LLC, 50 percent of shoes sold in the United States were manufactured domestically. These days that figure is closer to 2 percent.

Okabashi survived to be No. 1 in sales of massaging footwear, having sold more than 100 million pairs worldwide. Last summer, Okabashi, Buford, GA, came out with a new upscale line OKAb.The line is marketed as an "after shoe" to spas and specialty stores. The direct response campaign run by at Bennett Kuhn Varner (BKV), one of the leading DR agencies in the South, emphasizes the comfort, versatility, style and durability of the product. When the "Comfy Clog" premiered recently on QVC at an introductory offer price of $22.50 versus the usual retail $24.50, two of the three colors offered sold out completely and the company actually is filling backorders. QVC moved close to 2,500 pairs in an eight-minute segment.

Okabashi products are made from Microplast, a trademarked combination of PVC and rubber, which makes the shoes sturdy yet flexible. Designed around the principles of reflexology, they have massage beads built into the sole. The American Chiropractic Association endorsed Okabashi shoes for its design, which promotes correct weight distribution and support, with an anatomically correct, therapeutically contoured insole.

The sole also contains an anti-microbial agent to prevent mildew, mold and odor. When they are dirty they can be thrown into the washing machine or dishwasher. The main Okabashi line retails between $12 and $17 and is sold on the company's Web site and at chain pharmacies like Walgreens, Rite-Aid and CVS.

Shortly after BKV partnered with Okabashi to improve price points and profit margins a year ago, the DR agency approached Home Shopping Network (HSN) with the product, and received the standard "We're not interested" e-mail.

The response at QVC couldn't have been more different, with the buyer wanting to know how soon they could put the product on air.

The push is working. An online survey at the company's site found that the average customer owns eight (that's right, Imelda) pairs of Okabashi shoes.

"DRTV has not only given Okabashi a chance to sell product and make money," said Harold Becker, new business strategist for BKV, "it's leveraging brand awareness by exposing the OKAb line to the 87 million households that get QVC."

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