Poppy Barley gives the boot to NFL cheerleaders

An Edmonton company is making impressive strides in the highly competitive footwear industry. Poppy Barley has been around less than two years but it's managed to tap into a growing consumer trend.

Edmonton company makes the big leagues in the custom footwear business

Kendall and Justine Barber own Poppy Barley, an online Edmonton footwear company that landed a major contract with two NFL cheerleading squads. (CBC)

A young Edmonton company is making impressive strides in the highly competitive footwear industry.

Poppy Barley has been around less than two years, but it's managed to tap into a growing consumer trend. 

"Poppy Barley is a custom and limited edition e-commerce footwear company," says co-founder Justine Barber. "We design, manufacture, and distribute made-to-measure and limited footwear for women." 

The company is a throwback to the days when made-to-measure was the only option. Sisters Justine and Kendall Barber saw an opportunity based on feedback from customers. 

"When we started we found that 60 per cent of women identified with the idea that finding boots was difficult for a large variety of reasons. Really narrow calves, wide feet, wider calves, and really tall and really short," Kendall Barber said.  

So the sisters came up with a system that puts consumers in control. Customers select their style, choose either a flat or a boot, then pick the colour. They are guided through a measurement process.  

Business was slow at first.

But then, a big break: two National Football League teams in need of custom boots for their cheerleaders.  

"When they emailed us at first we were like, 'Is it football season? Who are the Rams? Who are the Raiders?' We weren't really up to speed on the NFL situation," Kendall Barber said.

"We never envisioned Poppy Barley would be making boots for cheerleaders," Justine Barber said.

In just two years, the company is really kicking it up a notch; handling about 200 custom orders a month — a clear sign that more consumers are craving personalized fashion.

University of Alberta marketing expert Kyle Murray said the personal touch isn't limited to footwear, but runs the gamut from BuildABeer to BMW.  

"Suits, dresses, all kinds of customize clothing — mostly sold over the internet — so most of it is online commerce, which 10 years ago would have been unheard of."  

Consumers' growing comfort with online shopping is also good news for companies like Poppy Barley, Murray said.