Stride Rite -- Fits Like a Shoe

Massachusetts-based Stride Rite has been a stalwart in the children's footwear game since its inception over 85 years ago. Today it no longer recalls little white leather booties reminiscent of mini-nursing shoes. A solid market leader, Stride Rite eventually acquired a number of footwear brands and is now under it's namesake umbrella the Stride Rite Company, which includes a portfolio of several American brands addressing various market segments within the footwear industry. In addition to the Stride Rite brand, the company also has Keds, PRO-Keds, Grasshoppers, Sperry Top-Sider, Sperry, Munchkin, Tommy Hilfiger, Baby Smart and Børn.

Its new-ish slogan, "Life's waiting...let's go," at once reflects accessibility and expertise, leveraging an historical position as experts on the delicate development of children's feet.

The brand image was recently updated, injecting modernity into the product and overall brand, which improved Stride Rite's position in today's ever-competitive children's apparel market without significantly elevating the price point. The numbers show this effort was successful without compromising the principles of quality and durability that comprise the brand's legacy. Today company communications explain that the brand mission is " encourage kids and support parents by developing and marketing products that help children embrace life's possibilities." The shoes reflect the look of today, but we are told, made with the same attention to value as the good old days. We recently visited Stride Rite's website to see if the online presence was in step with its new and improved brand image. Stride Rite - fits deftly serves its purpose as an online product catalog and retail vehicle, with a focus on functionality that is appropriately geared toward the end user. Designed in a clear, easy font and splashed with primary colors, the site's navigation makes surfing easy to use. Perfect for parents of young children, with little time to spend browsing aimlessly.

With the heaviest emphasis on e-tail, seasonal products are splashed on the home page, and shoppers can choose styles by gender or occasion, or use the omnipresent search function. There is even an advanced search, with pull-down menus to help weed through the numerous product choices. Sales-driven features abound, with account functions that store personal information, shipping addresses, wish lists, order and item histories and generate special event reminders. The customer service area is fairly well developed, and users can track orders and contact specialists via e-mail or phone.

A few standout features include the ability to order gift certificates online in either an e-mail or paper version for those who prefer the in-store visit. Another feature proves the brand owners know their audience well: an e-fit page allows users to either plug in a foot size in inches to get the right size or print out a size chart that their child can be measured against -- ideal for the time-crunched parent.

It might not be the flashiest most advanced site on the planet, but shouldn't be. It does a good job of supporting its products and maintaining the brand's position as the child footwear experts. One example is the way visitors are reminded that the brand's salespeople are "Certified Fit Specialists"; this message is connected with a store locator function to drive visitors to retail outlets. It effectively relates an updated messaging and image, allowing Stride Rite to compete in an ever-chic, ever-evolving market that capitalizes on a parent's need to give his/her child the best. The site conveys a brand that is neither elitist nor inaccessible...just like the products themselves.

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