Social & Influencers

Inside Rothy’s sell-out strategy

The brand, which has sold out of its Square Mary Jane flats five times, is applying its learnings to its latest shoe release.
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· 5 min read

Many millennials and elder Gen Zs remember the perils and pain—i.e., the blisters and lack of support—of the mid-2000s ballet flat. So, when news started to spread that they were back in style over the last couple of years, it made sense that some people tuned it out.

It also made sense that when posts, videos, and articles promoting Rothy’s flats as being comfortable enough to walk in for miles began to circulate, others tuned in.

That was very much the intention, Jamie Gersch, CMO of Rothy’s, told us. Through a combination of gifting and events, mixed with marketing messages centered on comfort, style, and durability, Rothy’s put its Square Mary Jane flats squarely on the map.

“In early ’23, we’re like, ‘We have the Square Mary Jane. We have to…capitalize on what’s happening in the marketplace today,’” Gersch said.

The hype around the Square Mary Jane reached a point where some wondered if the shoe was actually as popular in real life as it seemed to be online. While the brand declined to share exact sales data, it saw sales increase sixfold on the Black Square Mary Jane last year compared to 2022. In that time, the shoe sold out three times, and, at one point, it amassed a waitlist of more than 8,500 people, according to the company.

Friends in low places

According to Gersch, Rothy’s began following the balletcore trend near the end of 2022, right around the time she joined the company. Since then, she said the biggest change she’s made has been investing more heavily in social and content creation to help reach the brand’s core demographics, including on-the-go parents, older travelers, and “young achievers.” Much of the content the brand puts out is paid content, not organic, she said.

Since last summer, TikTok has served as a “huge driver” of sales for the brand: “It’s really just taken on a life of its own,” Gersch said.

Rothy’s has had viral success before, reporting a sales bump after Meghan Markle was seen wearing the brand in the late 2010s. Now, the brand is embracing influencers, often via product seeding.

When deciding who to gift products to, Gersch said Rothy’s looks for people who have a natural affinity for the brand, whether that’s writer Harling Ross Anton, whose 2021 partnership with Rothy’s helped kickstart its influencer strategy around the Square Mary Jane, or microinfluencers, who form the majority of the brand’s UGC community. Often, Gersch said, the company sends products based on trend cycles and styles that feel natural to individual creators.

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“With a smaller team, we’re able to be really hands-on and understand who these people are and gift so it feels authentic,” she said.

A well-timed gift to writer Erika Veurink last year, for example, led to a boost in sales after she wrote a review of the shoe for New York magazine’s Strategist website and posted a TikTok touting the Square Mary Janes’ ability to hold up on a step-heavy trip to Europe. Another creator, who goes by @natgawd and began working with Rothy’s after an event last May, said in a video last fall that “selling out the Rothy’s Mary Jane was certainly not on my 2023 bingo card.”

Not falling flat

The fact that the Square Mary Jane tends to sell out has provided another opportunity to market to customers looking to get their hands (or feet) on a pair. Product restocks provide a new opportunity for communication, Gersch said, both with customers already on product waitlists and for those who may not be aware that a product is once again available for purchase.

“In our marketing, we said, ‘Back in stock,’ very clearly, and ‘Sold out five times,’ so that there was a sense of urgency,” she said of the Square Mary Janes.

When asked if limited-batch releases are part of a broader strategy to keep production low for sustainability reasons, or to encourage a sense of scarcity to help drive sales, Gersch said it’s more about the unpredictable demand that can follow virality. “I wish I could tell you that it was a scarcity model or a sustainability play,” she said.

When the brand released clogs earlier this month, it “followed the same trajectory of seeding [and] paying, and then we saw the organic, natural response,” Gersch said. “We took that content, put money behind it, and sold out [of the clogs]. The same thing happened.”

As Rothy’s experiments with and perfects its marketing equation ahead of new-version releases of the Square Mary Jane, Gersch said one resource that has remained important is a group of brand loyalists on Facebook who host shoe exchanges and provide product feedback. It’s that sense of brand affinity that she hopes to continue tapping into and honing as Rothy’s looks to further expand its customer base.

“There was this cult following,” she said. “It just needed to be amplified on platforms where they could be heard.”

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