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Bombas ventures outside socks and expands into slides

Bombas continues to branch outside of its core sock business to grow its share in other categories.

On Tuesday, the brand is launching indoor/outdoor slide sandals in six colors. Each pair retails for $48 on and Bombas will donate one pair of socks for every pair of slides purchased.

Bombas launched as a buy-one-give-one sock company in 2013 but has expanded into other products in the last five years as it looks to find a firmer footing in basics. Bombas began selling T-shirts in 2019, while it introduced underwear and slippers in 2021. Last year, it started making seamless bralettes. All follow Bombas’s goal of “taking simple necessity items, things you put on first in the morning and take off last at night, and making them more comfortable and high-quality,” co-founder Randy Goldberg told Modern Retail.

Socks, which are the most-requested item in homeless shelters, remain the majority of Bombas’s business. Today, they account for 80% of sales, Goldberg said. “I don’t think there’s ever a point where we will be able to take our eye off the ball with socks,” he explained. However, slippers now account for 13% of the business. Underwear, the second-most requested item in homeless shelters, accounts for 6%.

Bombas decided to make its slides after seeing its slipper sales “roar into this big, fun category,” Goldberg said. “I think there’s a fair amount of trust that we’ve built up when it comes to feet and comfort… and we really liked that, so we started to think of slipper-adjacent ideas,” he said. Bombas launched slippers in 2021 and currently offers three types: Ballet Slippers, Sunday Slippers and Gripper Slippers.

As it’s done in the past, Bombas took customer feedback into account when making the new slides. Some customers had told the brand that they didn’t wear socks in the summer, and Bombas wanted to satisfy their needs with a year-round product, Goldberg said. It hoped to make something that was “kind of in the slipper world,” he explained, but also something that customers could wear to the beach, at the pool or around the house.

In the end, it took Bombas about two years to develop the slides. That’s not unusual for Bombas. Its crew socks, for instance, went through 137 different levels of tension testing before going to market. Similarly, Bombas went through “many iterations” of its slides, mostly because it wanted them to have an original point of view, Goldberg said.

“Some of the slides that you see are just kind of giant bulbous things, and some are super minimal,” he said. “We wanted something that was neither of those things, that had a thoughtful approach to comfort, but also was super lightweight and easy to clean and versatile.”

Today, slides come in all types of styles (like dressy or casual) and materials (like rubber, cork or leather). Big players in the category include Adidas, Nike, Chaco and Birkenstock. Slides are considered an “extension” of the slipper category and “often serve the same purpose,” Beth Goldstein, footwear industry analyst at Circana, told Modern Retail.

“[Slides] remain an important category as consumers are still looking for comfortable, easy-on/easy-off options for indoor and outdoor use,” Goldstein said in an email. “But seasonality and weather changes remain a challenge for sandals in general, including slides.”

According to Circana data, demand for slides jumped during the pandemic but has since come down. While sales of sports slides are “slightly above pre-pandemic levels,” they’ve dipped over the last two 12-month periods, Goldstein explained. What’s more, footwear companies selling slides have seen mixed results. Ugg’s sales jumped 15.2% from the third quarter of fiscal 2023 to the third quarter of fiscal 2024. Meanwhile, Birkenstock’s shares fell 13% on their first day of trading in October, and the stock is down 11% year-to-date.

Bombas, which reached profitability in its third year, plans to promote its new slides via a marketing campaign that it photographed in Florida. The campaign features a diverse range of models, including seniors, wearing Bombas slides on the beach and by the pool. In one shot, an elderly man wears a pair while using a metal detector in the sand. The shoot is a take on the so-called “eclectic grandpa/coastal grandmaā€¯ aesthetic, Bombas says.

Goldberg is optimistic that the company’s new slides will find traction with many audiences. “We just want good feedback on the product,” he said. “And we feel like when that happens, we’ll get word of mouth, it’ll grow and it’ll be the right size business. Overall, we see the slipper category growing as a percentage of our business, and we’re excited about that. So, expect to see more offerings and more colors and more interesting things in that world from us.”