THE ART OF HAPPY FEET
CAINTA, RIZAL, October 4, 2005 (STAR) By Rose De La Cruz - From each and every hand-painted and hand-stained design of Happy Feet wooden sandals and the attractive boxes that could very well be a memory box, the relaunched Happy Feet wooden togs is truly a work of art.
This was the proud testimony of Roberto F. Anonas, chief executive officer of Marizza Marketing Corp., founder and makers of Happy Feet sandals which had its beginnings in the early seventies. Happy Feet actually started as the exclusive local licensee of Berkemann b100 therapeutic sandals of Germany.
"After operating locally for about one and a half years, my father decided to produce a different wooden sandal, asking some of the people he knew in Marikina to design for him. They came up initially with four models that really clicked," Anonas recalled.
In the seventies, Happy Feet became a fad among students from UP, Ateneo and other AB clients. Happy Feet sandals were selling for P35 a pair then (or three times the minimum wage of P8 per day) at the company’s 14 outlets in Virra Mall, Ali Mall, Rizal Theater, Harrison Plaza and in a store in front of Stella Maris, Anonas recalled.
Since the elder Anonas and his partners failed to come up with new designs required by the market, the fad soon wore off.
When the elder Anonas died in 1997, the family met over lunch to decide once and for all what to do with the company and the 10 machines used in producing the sandals.
"Of the 10, only three were functional and one of them was worth P10 million, which our family decided to sell at only P1 million. But no one attempted to buy it after several times of advertising and auctioning," Anonas narrated.
"We thought of this as a cue for us to take over the business and rehabilitate the factory and the machines. The seven others had to be cannibalized for parts," Anonas said.
It took some time for the family to search for the original factory hands to be able to relaunch the sandals but this time with more exciting designs.
"We got our suppliers of leather, rubber and soles back. We also decided to get more varied prototypes for our straps and soles. In 2002, the white sole was being sought by the market," Anonas said.
The family also outsourced in Cainta and Taytay the painting and staining of straps and soles to 80 individual-craftsmen, thereby providing employment to the community where the factory is located. When the company came out with its first models, all of the painting and staining were done in-house, Anonas said.
Soon the Anonas family is making a quiet comeback for Happy Feet, launching the hardy togs at the Mary the Queen bazaar, selling at the rate of five to 10 pairs each day.
Luckily, the market received the product well and soon after interests from the big boutiques (which were apprehensive at first) came one after the other.
"SM invited us to sell our sandals in 2003. So we put our products at Megamall, SM North EDSA, Glorietta and Landmark," Anonas said. Despite the lure of the big boutiques, the family decided to put up a company-owned store at Wilson corner P. Guevarra Sts. in San Juan.
Each current outlet now has 300 units of Happy Feet sandals of all models. The big SM outlets in fact have 600 pairs, which sell from P1,000 to P1,500 a pair depending on the model. The prices are the same whether sold in malls or through distributors.
The basic models of Happy Feet are: Regina, Marizza, Bobby glide, Bobby cushion glide and Michael cushion glide.
"Some of our sandals come with thick cushion but all of them have protected bed," Anonas said.
In Cagayan de Oro and Davao, he said, the distributors are selling even faster than SM.
Because each sole and strap is hand-painted and hand-stained, "each sandal is different from the others. There are no sandals that look alike," Anonas said.
The variety of designs, colors and patterns has made Happy Feet sandals an art form in itself or what Anonas would like to say "the art of Happy Feet."
Since the wood used for the sandals are gmellina "we do not destroy old growths but harvest from tree plantations," he said.
" Also, we do not throw away old wooden pair but buff them, replace the soles and leather straps to make them new. This makes our operation environment-friendly," Anonas said.
"Even the truly worn out pair, we try to repair. Once finished, we take off the label and donate them to charity."
Anonas also said they even have an ongoing program where owners of old sandals can surrender their units, buy a new pair at P200 less. But this can be done only for the Wilson outlet.
From just a drab packaging carton before, now the box of Happy Feet comes in attractive colors and designs that would make a buyer think twice about throwing the box away. The new boxes were designed initially for the export market "since Happy Feet is being marketed by balikbayans and frequent visitors in the country from the United States."
Anonas, however, said he is not keen on marketing the sandals in Asia because "we already find our products being copied by producers elsewhere and they offer lower prices."
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Marizza Marketing Corp.
Happy Feet Compound
Felix Manalo St., San Isidro, Cainta, Rizal
Tel : 725-2675
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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