Written on the 16 October 2009
‘Lend me your feet’ is the message from Nomis Innovative Products founder Simon Skirrow, as he seeks to combat a growing trend of foot, ankle and knee injuries for football players. With his boots sold in 24 countries to athletes ranging from rugby league star Petero Civoniceva to junior soccer players in Denmark, Nomis made around $24 million in revenues in its first 18 months of business. Skirrow tells Brisbane Business News why he then took his product off the shelves to start fresh.
WHEN it comes to Nomis Innovative Products you have a tale of two innovations — the first is the product itself, football boots that fit well and can hold their own against the likes of Adidas and Puma.
The second is the fact that after rapid growth, in 2007 founder Simon Skirrow decided to pull the shoes off the shelves of more than 200 Australian outlets, to create a new strategy of direct mobile marketing to complement online requests.
“In Australia we’re in the process of launching 20 mobile boot rooms – we’ve got Mercedes vans carrying 130 pairs of junior women’s and men’s boots driving into associations, clubs and academies,” says Skirrow.
“We offer a free test, a basic scan and we match the design to the foot — our boots prevent blisters and callous dead skin, yellow toenails, all things that damage the fibres in the foot and lead to wear and tear through to the knees.
“We want to hear people say, I’ve just played the hardest game and my feet don’t hurt – what’s going on?”
Skirrow discusses a dangerous trend of foot and ankle injuries among junior football players, across all codes, spreading to the knees and wearing and tearing at the metatarsals, resulting in other deferred pains as well.
“If it happens at 16 it shows that footwear hasn’t changed at the same pace the game has changed,” he says.
“Innovation takes time. You don’t wake up on January 1 and expect to launch on February 1. There’s got to be an end point but you’ve got to be patient to deliver it.
“It’s a very costly exercise but it’s the best investment I can make, allowing customers to critique my brand and I learn a lot as well.”
The brand picked up momentum and spread throughout Australia, as Nomis spread its reach to Germany, the UK and Denmark, as well as sealing third party distribution deals in a number of other markets, both retail and online.
“It just goes to show how global the market is when you see that consumers were willing to give Nomis a chance. Without multi-million dollar sponsorship, we can still compete in the marketplace,” he says.
“In 2007 we chose to move to Europe and set up an office just outside of Zurich, then we took on new countries to introduce and develop the Nomis brand — we plan another 10 before the World Cup in South Africa, which will take us up to 35 countries.
But while Nomis has managed to get some big name stars on board locally, its mantra is ‘no player is less deserving than any other.
“People should wear the same quality boots, whether it’s my son, your sister or a professional sports person. Football boots shouldn’t be an elitist product – fundamentally the body is the same, even though professionals like Harry Kewell play with a different strength and intensity,” he says.
In the first 18 months of operations Nomis sold 170,000 boots of which 20,000 were in Australia. With the new marketing strategy that Skirrow believes will boost sales, Australian numbers will double to 40,000 and total sales will stand at 285,000 boots worldwide at the end of 2010.
And with an average price of $140 per pair this amounts to almost $40 million.
Skirrow admits that he is not passionate about the colour of boots – a ‘lifestyle’ factor he thinks has overtaken performance factors in the market – and he isn’t passionate about the price either, for technology costs money.
What Skirrow cares about is adding value to customers and looks forward to the day when he can approach a football club and have 85 per cent of players wearing his boots.
“It’s about experiencing something different – you can’t walk into a retail store and play for 60 minutes.”
With five staff in Australia and 23 worldwide when you include the Zurich office, all the company’s resources are from Brisbane, with a leather tannery at Narangba using kangaroo leather.
“This is very important to me as we have our roots here, and this is the country that gave me a chance,” says Skirrow.
Invention, innovation, diffusion – Skirrow has found a unique way to undertake the third, with plans to push into the college football market in the US, soccer-mad Brazil, three million registered footballers in Spain, as well as South Africa for the World Cup.
Whether or not Nomis will be able to conquer global markets will have to wait, but to adapt the words of Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar — friends, Romans, countrymen, lend them your feet.