|Founder(s)||William Mathias Scholl|
North America: Merck & Co./Brown Shoe Company
Rest of World: Reckitt Benckiser
|Products||Foot care products and shoes|
Dr. Scholl's is a footwear and foot care brand owned by British-company SSL International and manufactured in China. Founded in 1906 by podiatrist William Mathias Scholl in Chicago, United States, the company expanded globally through his dual-talents to design and patent over 1000 footcare products, and find original ways to market. Having become a member of the Fortune 500 in 1971 following the death of Dr Scholl in 1968, it was bought by Schering-Plough, who under parent Merck & Co. continue to make shoes in China, and have a North American distribution agreement with the Brown Shoe Company. In 1984, Schering-Plough sold the global brand and non-North American operations to European Home Products, who today as SSL International continue to manufacture footwear and foot care products distributed under the Scholl brand.
William Mathias Scholl was the son of German-immigrants to Indiana. To earn extra cash, he used his grandfather's cobbler's tools to repair shoes. Aged 18 he moved to work for Chicago shoe retailer Ruppert's, where he found that many customers suffered from similar medical problems with their feet.
Scholl began taking night classes at the Illinois Medical School, graduating in 1904 as podiatrist. After designing and gaining a patent around a mechanical arch support in 1904 called the Foot-Eazer, in 1906 he started his own company. He produced over the next few years a series of similarly patented footcare products, including: the Zino Pad, rubberless stockings, anticorn pads, cushion insoles, exercise sandals, orthopedic shoes, Foot Wings and Ball-O-Foot Cushions.
Established in 1912, William founded the Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine, located at Rosalind Franklin University in North Chicago, Illinois.
Marketing led expansion
Scholl's skill was not limited to his ability to design patented footcare products, but also in his ways to become innovative and inventive in marketing his company.
Scholl initially distributed his products via shoe retailers, dressing in older-designs of clothes to appear more experienced, and then demonstrating the medical advantages of his design by using a skeleton of the human foot. To expand his enterprise, Scholl employed salespeople whom he paid more if they studied and passed a podiatric correspondence course. The companies turnover passed $1million in 1915, resulting in Scholl sponsoring a Cinderella Foot Contest in 1916, and a national walking contest in 1918. As he had done on starting his business, Scholl expanded his company overseas through personal sales.
In 1908, Scholl's brother Frank had joined the company. William dispatched him to expand the company in Europe, where against his brother's wishes, Frank opened the companies first retail store in London in 1913. As a result of the shop's success, William took his first trip to Europe, and then on a subsequent tour of European capitals personally sold arch supports to Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German Emperor.
To give better service, advice and improve margins, Scholl opened his first North American retail store in 1928 under the banner "Dr Scholl's" - although the medical community carped that he wasn't a "real" doctor. This allowed the company to expand into the comfort of the legs, developing compression hosiery for the relief of swollen ankles and varicose veins.
Scholl marketed his brand through catchy advertising phrases, which included: "Put one on, the pain is gone" and "When your feet hurt, you hurt all over." He explained his business philosophy as "Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise," which by 1955 resulted in the company having 16 manufacturing plants, and "Dr. Scholl's" becoming the world's third-best-known brand name. By the early 1960s, there were about 100 Dr. Scholl's Foot Comfort Shops in the United States, and over 400 overseas.
Frank's son William, born in London in 1920, had joined Scholl Manufacturing following World War II. A graduate of modern languages from the University of Cambridge, while acting as an interpreter in Germany at the end of the war, he had come across a wooden sandal. Returning to develop his design in the 1950s, he added a coloured leather strap, and decided to market it on launch in 1959 is as the "Original Exercise Sandal," claiming that wearing it toned the leg muscles.
Although the sandal was designed primarily for footcare, female fashion of the early 1960s was based around the mini skirt, which showed off the full length of a lady's legs. The fact the sandal now looked trendy with its primary-coloured leather strap added to its marketability, and resulted in huge sales.
Known today simply as "Scholls", with wooden soles and leather uppers they quickly became a style and comfort icon throughout the 60s and 70s, worn by celebrities such as Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton. William enhanced distribution by making them available in self-service racks in drugstores, which by 1972 resulted in Scholl selling over 1 million sandals in the United States alone.
William M. Scholl died in 1968 at the age of 86, with over 1000 patented footcare products to his name.
He left shares to all of his family, leaving the principal shareholdings and operations of the company to his nephews, William H. Scholl (1920–2002; who became President and took over European and non-North American operations), and Jack E. Scholl (1926–2006; Vice-President, who took over North America). At this point, 45% of Scholl's sales came from its non-U.S. operations, with 1/3 of foreign sales originating from the United Kingdom. Sales of $60 million in 1966, reached over $150 million by 1974, from over 500 product lines.
To simplify the complicated share holdings, the family agreed to float the company via an initial public offering in 1971. After entering the Fortune 500, in 1979 it was acquired for $130M by Schering-Plough. In 1987, Schering-Plough sold the European, Latin American, and Asian overseas operations, and the Dr. Scholl brand to household electrical appliance manufacturer European Home Products of Basingstoke, England, for $160 million. Following completion of the merger, EHP listed on the London Stock Market as Scholl plc. In the late 1990s in response to the increasing incidence of travel related Deep Vein Thrombosis, the company launched a range of clinical compression socks. It also incorporated gel inserts into its iconic Scholl sandals.
In 1998, Scholl plc and Seton Heathcare plc merged to form Seton-Scholl plc, which merged with London International Group in 1999, the makers of Durex-brand condoms, to form SSL International. Reckitt Benckiser bought SSL in 2010. The North American sub-brand is now under the control of Merck & Co..
- Paul Lukas (June 1, 2003). "Big Foot A Midwestern doctor found the thrill of victory in the agony of de-feet". FORTUNE - Small Business. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- "History - Scholl". ssl-international.com. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- "Scholl heritage". Scholl.com. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- "Jack E. Scholl, Foot-Care Pioneer, 80, Dies". New York Times/ASSOCIATED PRESS. October 26, 2006. Retrieved July 20, 2010.
- Dr. Scholl's brand of foot care products
- Scholl brand of Footwear products (U.K.)
- Dr. Scholl's brand of Footwear products (U.S.)
- Dr. Scholl's brand of socks