In 2014, Tonya Richardson called customer service at Zappos, a shoe company known for comfortable, utilitarian footwear. She told the customer service representative she had received the wrong pair of shoes. The representative told Tonya the shoes she ordered were out of stock with no similar options to choose from.
This was a problem for Tonya, because the shoes she had ordered were not ordinary shoes. They were adult-sized slip-ons for her autistic grandson, Gabriel, who was unable to tie shoelaces. Because he was getting older, she was running out of options for easy on/off shoes. Every sneaker she saw looked like it was either for kindergartners or the elderly. Tonya and Gabriel didn’t have many options for shoes that fit, were functional, and looked age-appropriate.
Zappos took action. They identified the struggle in the adaptive community, whose few options always returned a sacrifice in fashion or function. In response, Zappos launched an adaptive line in the summer of 2020. Targeted customers for Zappos Adaptive include children and adults who have limited mobility, use prosthetics, or suffer from another type of disability that prevents them from wearing mainstream footwear.
Celebrate Good Business
We should applaud good business decisions like Zappos Adaptive. The catalyst of change came from a customer request and an employee who identified a need. The customers and employees spoke up, and Zappos management listened. With demand growing for clothing options for those with disabilities, this is a win-win for Zappos. They are helping a large group of people around the globe simply because they responded to a need.
The global market for adaptive clothing will likely be $400 billion by 2026. That’s a huge revenue generator, with costs similar to creating extended clothing sizes. Studies estimate the compound annual growth rate of the industry at 4% from 2018-2024.
If you have a 401(k) or IRA, or if you own mutual funds, it’s important to pay attention to what companies are doing and why. In the world of cancel culture and knee-jerk reactions based on uproar from activist bullying, we should celebrate when a business takes initiative and makes a good business decision simply because they discovered a gap and filled it.
As a shareholder, staying informed on positive initiatives like Zappos Adaptive is a small price to pay for the future success of your share value. Their new line will help those in the adaptive community, increase revenue and satisfy their shareholders and customers alike.