Bad feet, customer obsession and brand loyalty.

Rich Nadworny
4 min readJan 17


Last Christmas I bought everyone in my family new slippers from Shepherd of Sweden. I’m not sure why I chose them — they just looked better when I was shopping online, and they were somewhat locally produced. Unlike my wife, I’ve never really been a big slipper-wearer and because of that I’ve never really had good slippers.

That all changed a year ago. As soon as I got my Samuel wool slippers everything changed. I wore them all the time. After a week, I ordered another pair for our cottage in the country (where the floors can get pretty cold). I work at home, so I had these slippers on all day. After about a month it was hard to imagine or remember life without my Shepherd wool slippers. I couldn’t understand why it took my so many years to figure this out.

Samuel wool slippers by Shepherd® of Sweden

After about 2–3 months I noticed that there was a spot on my left wool slipper that seemed like it was…unraveling. I contacted Shepherd and they thought I had scraped it on something, which I hadn’t.

I knew, without being able to prove it yet, that my bad feet were the culprit. I have Hallux rigidus on my left foot. That’s when the cartilage in the joint under your big toe gets worn down and the joint gets bigger and bigger. We used to call those bunions (as in Paul, the big guy).

Now, a year later, that joint has worn a hole in my beloved slippers. I contacted Shepherd of Sweden and asked them if they had a solution to that problem. I figured they must have run into this before. I mean all Scandinavians can’t have perfect feet, right? No, they replied, they had no solution to this. I thought of going to a shoe repair person, but they probably would have fixed it for the price of a new pair of slippers.

And I realized that my slippers in the country would soon suffer the same fate. They both still fit great and are comfortable, but that hole, it bugs me. To be honest, I think I’d care less if I couldn’t use my iPhone anymore than not using these Shepherd slippers. And I am fiercely brand loyal to Apple.

Then, I get an email from Andreas from Shepherd. They are prototyping a new wool slipper with a protective band of Lycra over the toes. The idea is that those big ugly joints will rub against the sturdier Lycra, thus saving the wool. Andreas wanted to know if I was interested in testing them and giving them feedback.

Of course, I said yes. Of course, they sent them, and they arrived the next day. Of course, I’ve got them on now and won’t take them off for a while!

My new prototype slippers

Talk about customer obsession, of creating something of great value to your customers, of creating brand loyalty. I really can’t say enough good about Shepherd of Sweden. Even when these wear out, I’m never buying from another brand. And when I’m stuck on what present to buy for someone, they are getting slippers! (My sister-in-law took one look at our Christmas slippers last year and bugged her family for a year to buy her some. When they suggested another brand, she downright refused. And of course, she had them on this year when we went over to their apartment to celebrate Swedish Christmas eve).

If you want to try and analyze this, it all comes down to a relentless pursuit of quality. These slippers have a high quality. The customer relationships have the same quality. The difference between Shepherd and other brands are its people and their commitment at every level to this quality. It’s what makes them great. And it makes me very, very happy.

I’ll post an update in a few months to see whether my toe can wear down even this new slipper, or not.



Rich Nadworny

Innovation Lead at Hello Future, focusing on design thinking, innovation and change. Vermonter in exile in Sweden.