DeFeet is responding to the ever-changing retail business with a crowdfunded business model called Bespoke. The concept is unique, but simple: Each product comes with a consumer goal and a deadline, and it will only be created if there are enough customers backing it when the deadline arrives. Rather than mass producing gear like cycling socks and jackets, shipping them to a retailer to be marked up, and losing out on product that isn’t sold, Bespoke makes only what the market demands. Brand Manager Paul Willerton believes this allows for higher quality products with less waste, less markup, and less risk.
“Bespoke provides DeFeet the ability to create items that we couldn’t otherwise create,” Willerton says. “These are high quality, low waste products at prices that work for the consumer.”
DeFeet launched Bespoke this January, and is currently seeing a roughly 50-percent success rate on its products, which predominately features socks but also includes other cycling gear such as jackets, jerseys and wallets. Customers can back their favorite products and watch to see if they reach the 100-percent funding mark (at which point the customers’ cards are charged and items are produced). The live feedback is a window into consumer demands. Professional mountain biker Sonya Looney enjoyed the reaction to the socks she designed for DeFeet Bespoke as she watched her product meet its goal in the first day.
“It was really cool to be able to see people buying them as it was happening,” Looney says. “I think Bespoke is a great model. That’s where things are going, especially with millennials who are looking for the customization the small-batches offer.”
Looney’s design features a unicorn she drew with a sharpie and the words “f*cking magical”; her socks funded in the first day and, with a week to go, have reached almost 600 percent of their goal.
While Looney’s socks went over well, many items on Bespoke never reach production. Willerton sees these failed campaigns as part of the learning process.
“For right now, it’s not about making money,” Willerton says. “We’re in it for the long haul, and our goal with Bespoke right now is to have happy customers and great products in a sensible way.”
DeFeet Bespoke’s model is the first of its kind in the cycling industry, and Willerton believes cyclists are the kind of consumers who are willing to invest and wait for rewards down the road.
For more info, head over to DeFeet’s Instagram feed.