The birth of Croatian footwear brand Froddo in 1999 was, at the time, a move into the unknown. Entering the premium end of the kids’ footwear market – something which was less heard of at the time – it was not known what the reaction would be.
However, it was a move that proved itself to be worth the risk for its parent manufacturer, Ivancica, as today Froddo is the company’s flagship product.
Although the Froddo brand is still a teenager, last year marked the 70th anniversary of the start of Ivancica’s presence in the shoe-making industry. And it’s come a long way since 1946. Initially making shoes for miners, the footwear manufacturer eventually branched into ladies’ footwear and then began making children’s shoes.
Froddo is now present in key markets such as Germany, Austria, France, Russia, USA and the UK & Ireland, to name just a few. Pauly Tong, Hertfordshire-based director of Froddo distributor Kidsnewshoes.com, was responsible for bringing it to the British and Irish markets.
“I decided to work with the brand after I visited the factory,” says Tong. “I have a background in and extensive knowledge of just in time manufacturing, but in the electronics industry, so I was familiar with the process. I was working with a different brand at the time and wasn’t too impressed with the quality.
“After visiting the Froddo retail outlets in Zagreb, and having bought two pairs of shoes for my daughter, I decided to go back and visit the factory and was impressed by the controlled production process. That really drew me in.”
Described as a premium product with a market price point, Froddo’s full range is designed and produced in Croatia at a footwear factory located in a small town called Ivanec.
Situated at the base of Ivancica mountain, the production facility is at home within a rural setting, one that Ivancica is keen to protect through clean production methods. It is partly a desire to preserve the landscape there and partly a genuine interest to supply its customers with a healthy, well-fitting product that explains why the production is so well-considered.
With an ethical stance on production, manufacturing is geared around the environment. Recycled materials are used whenever possible and water-based glues and dyes are all part of the carefully managed production process. Reducing the number of chemicals not only minimises the amount of pollution to the surrounding town and environment but is healthier for the child who ends up wearing the shoe. Chrome VI-free leathers and vegetable materials are the main components of the collection. Froddo Prewalkers are made from 100 per cent chrome-free leather and are completely safe for babies.
Though Ivancica was established as a small group of shoemakers, today the team has grown to over 800 employees and the factory is the leading footwear manufacturer in Croatia.
“After the company made a name for itself as a maker of quality shoes, which were durable enough to withstand use in the mining industry, they thought about where else they could take the production,” says Tong. “Quality shoes were manufactured for women, then the production of a kids’ range seemed like a natural progression.
“The quality production methods and hardy materials were transferred into the kids’ shoes and are seen across the line in features like the reinforced toe cap to make the shoes more resilient. At the time there was a gap in the market for good quality, hard-wearing shoes made specifically for kids – and so the brand was born.”
The brand is recommended in the UK and Ireland by podiatrists, and Froddo’s design team works with experts in the field, using the latest technology to continue product development in children’s shoe design.
“We wanted to present the market with a well-fitting shoe for children, rather than just another shoe that perhaps the producers didn’t care about. We wanted to do something different,” Tong says.
It’s this approach that has given Froddo a global growth of approximately 140 per cent over the past two years, as well as over 100 accounts across the UK since its launch at Moda Footwear nine years ago.
“Export is very important to the company,” says Tong. “It likes to look forward and to be ahead of its competitors. Germany is the biggest market, though recently it successfully entered Austria, France, Canada and the USA with the brand and is hoping to explore the markets in Asia next.”
Froddo’s immediate plan is to continue growth within existing markets and to increase its production capacity to keep pace with the demand. “Our proximity to London allows us to attract international buyers from other locations as far-reaching as Dubai, Mongolia and Japan.”
All shoes typically boast features including padding on the inside of the shoe, ankle support, arch support, leather toe cap, leather heel support and a leather lining. Design features include a double lace option, reflective materials for use during cycling and the added option to personalise the back of the shoe with a space for kids to write their own messages.
Sizes start from the pre-walker model 16 and go up to an adult size 42. Typically, the bestselling age range is 1-8 years, and it is this age range for which the brand is best known. “Each season we introduce innovative new materials, colours, styles and details, but the core designs and features remain consistent, for example, heel and arch support, leather lining and ankle cushioning,” Tong says.
Starting at £11 for a leather lined, structured indoor house shoe, wholesale prices go up to approximately £45 for a long boot in the largest sizes. Bestselling styles for the brand have always included essential elements such as the rubber front toe protection feature and the ‘distressed look’ effect, with a rebellious scratched finish leather to create a retro appearance.
The Soft Sole range, which includes a removable dual insole feature providing two width fittings, remains popular, too. The removable insoles are antibacterial, breathable, anatomically shaped and mould to the form of a child’s foot.
The s/s 17 collection introduces a bright and at times glitzy direction for the brand. Inspired by the Cote d’Azur, an intense Mediterranean colour palette of rich, contemporary hues includes shades of red, green, pink and yellow. A touch of glamour comes in the form of gold and silver glitter and soft patent leather. This season, the brand has created a new range of older girls’ T-bar casual shoes in sizes 25–40, available in eight colours including black for the Back to School range.
Froddo developed its school range three years ago. Stitch-down styles have proved to be a popular choice, along with Mary-Jane styles for girls and Velcro for boys. The school shoes carry many of the same features as the brand’s everyday range such as leather toe cap, removable insoles, padded ankle support, arch support, natural production methods and chrome VI-free materials.
Other recent brand developments include Froddo’s B2B online service for its retailers. The service allows retailers to view and purchase fashion and school shoe stock all year around, with delivery to the UK and Ireland within three to five working days. Retailers can also now add their websites to the Froddo.com, which in turn helps drive customers and increases sales.
As for the vision for the brand’s future? It’s to keep on growing and improving.
“The plan is to further develop the environmental aspects of production, to continue to care for our employees and customers while striving to make Froddo children’s shoes the best quality and value for money brand in the UK and Europe,” says Tong.
Not as easy as it sounds. But if anyone can do it, Froddo can.