Rejected by stores, insole maker goes online

NEW YORK (AP) — Getting Undercover Fox's height-boosting shoe inserts into stores was a tall order.

The inserts can make short men or women appear up to 2.5 inches taller. Andrew Fox, the owner of Undercover Fox, pitched the insoles to about a dozen retailers. Each time he was told that people would be too embarrassed to be seen buying the inserts, especially men.

"They kept shooing us away," says Fox.

After three months of rejection, Fox decided to sell them directly to customers online. In August 2011, New York-based Undercover Fox starting selling the insoles through Amazon.com.

Small businesses that create new products often have trouble getting them onto store shelves. But with the Internet, companies can bypass the shops and sell directly to their customers and build a following. Offering mail-order options also saves customers embarrassment if the product they are buying is something they want to keep hush-hush.

In the first month of selling online, the company sold 600 units of the inserts. A pair sells for $15.95 plus shipping on Amazon.com. Sales have doubled every quarter since the company began selling online, Fox says.

The majority of Undercover Fox's customers are men. Most women buy for the men in their lives, says Fox, although the inserts fit into women's shoes, too. Fox says he came up with the idea while at a nightclub. "I was towered over by these women in high heels," says Fox. "I said there has got to be something a short guy could do."

Fox is 5 feet 7 inches tall without the inserts. "But not anymore," he says. "Now I'm 5 feet 9 inches." He met his fiancee while wearing the insoles. "I got the girl," he says.

The company makes more money selling directly to customers, Fox says. If Undercover Fox sold the products to a retailer, it would have to sell them at a discount so that the store could make a profit. On Amazon, the company pays fees for each sale. To get people to find the product online, Undercover Fox buys advertisements through Google Ads that link to Undercover Fox's Amazon.com page.

Fox says he's still talking to big retailers. Undercover Fox will stay online, he says, but is only interested in retailer that will buy large orders of the insoles, such as 50,000 units.

"We're not looking for mom and pop stores," he says.

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ONLINE:

Undercover Fox: http://www.undercoverfox.com/

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Follow Joseph Pisani at https://twitter.com/josephpisani

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