A day before debuting a new silhouette—an open-toed shoe—Rothy’s, the women’s direct-to-consumer brand that makes shoes out of recycled bottles, pulled it.
In an email sent out to customers (and posted to the company’s social channels), Rothy’s wrote that the initial prototypes of the shoe—the Slide—were perfect. But as the company ramped up production, the shoe “did not meet our brand standards.” Rothy’s further stated that it “will only launch product when every piece is perfect, and that is simply not the case this time.” The brand has full autonomy to make such decisions because it owns its supply chain and factory.
“Owning this end-to-end means we aren’t stuck with a season’s worth of excess inventory, and we have the key learnings for solving it next time,” said Kerry Cooper, president and COO of Rothy’s. “When we are ready to launch a new collection, we start with very limited inventory, monitor early response and produce based on demand. Controlling our manufacturing process means we never overproduce, react in real time and can press pause when product is not up to our high quality standards.”
The decision to withdraw the product came as somewhat of a surprise, as Rothy’s held events for select insiders and media to debut the shoe. The Slide was supposed to retail for $95—a cheaper price point and entry into Rothy’s than its current selection. Cooper said the company is “revisiting design and are hopeful that we can bring one to market in the future.”
Fans of Rothy’s took the news in stride, and experts in the industry, like Brian Crofts, chief product officer at Pendo, a product analytics software company, noted that a “bad launch could be your last launch.”
“It shows a commitment to the quality of the product and delivering the best to the consumer—killing a product can be extremely painful to morale and short-term growth, so any decision to do this is not taken likely,” Crofts said. “Negative word of mouth spreads quicker than ever in the age of social media. Rothy’s knew they needed to get every detail right for their customers at launch, so this decision, although unfortunate, was probably prudent.”
As a DTC brand, Rothy’s also has an advantage in knowing what their customers want and “maintaining control over their overall brand experience,” said Adrianna Nowell, vp of product marketing at Bazaarvoice, a marketing software company.
“There is a lot riding on a successful product launch,” she said. “To avoid a lackluster or problematic product launch, it is important for brands to involve their customers from the beginning.”