Goshen man partners with pregnant 'Jersey Shore' star to market children's products

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By Jacquelyn Stoess Hack

Snooki’s slippers may be a Shore thing, but they were an Oldham County thing first.

That was before Goshen resident Pat Yates struck a deal with Nicole “Snooki” Pilozzi, the diminutive housemate with a larger-than-life personality on MTV’s hit reality show, “Jersey Shore.”

And now, Pilozzi and Yates expect to strike gold – again.

Yates owns Happy Feet, a slipper company his family started in 1995, long before Pilozzi hit the reality TV scene.

The business sells slippers of all kinds, including ones with sports team logos and others shaped like animals.

Yates sold slippers at mall kiosks before 2002, when he bought Happy Feet and pushed the company online.

In September 2010, one of his sons noticed Pilozzi wearing a pair of “pink-and-whites,” oversized slipper-sneakers, puffy as her pouf, of the white and baby pink variety.

After the product’s “Jersey Shore” appearance, people visited www.BuyHappyFeet.com, looking for the pink-and-whites.

Yates and his management team landed a six-figure licensing deal with Pilozzi, including distribution via Claire’s, QVC and the Home Shopping Network.

Yates describes the company’s slipper debut on HSN as “a massive success” that led Happy Feet to sell out several thousand pairs of slippers in only eight minutes.

Kohls.com has carried Happy Feet products in the past and has shown interest for fall 2012, he said.

Snooki’s slippers are, well, all Snooki. They come in five patterns, including zebra- and leopard-print. The shoes come with a bag  signed by Pilozzi.

Pilozzi is pregnant with her first child due in August. Earlier this month, she announced her first baby brand – Snooki Slippers for infants and children. At least one design will be a smaller version of Pilozzi’s popular leopard print slipper.

Yates said Happy Feet has sold baby slippers – including the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville variety – since 1998. The partnership with Pilozzi for infant and children’s products is a no brainer, he said.

Having Snooki on board has drawn attention to Happy Feet, especially online, Yates said. He said the company’s success has tripled since Snooki came aboard.

“It’s taken the brand name of the product and just shot it through the roof,” he said.

Pilozzi is the 196th most followed person on Twitter, with 4.8 million followers. To date, she has posted 8,657 tweets, including tweets promoting a variety of Snooki products.

The first time she tweeted about her slipper deal and website – SnookiSlippers.com –  the Happy Feet website crashed.

“It’s not just the line and the design she has. Those are very good, obviously. But it’s just as much the kind of attention that she’s brought to the product,” Yates said.

Snooki Slippers have received a lot of media attention, but the Shore star is not the first celebrity to sport Happy Feet, he added. Happy Feet have appeared on “The Bachelorette,” “Days of Our Lives,” “Alias” and “30 Rock.”

In August, Yates and his oldest son, a freshman at Western Kentucky University, traveled to New York City for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and gave 350 pairs of slippers to audience members. Fallon featured Pilozzi during a 5-minute segment called “Slipper Golf with Snooki.”

“We’ve had some pretty big stuff attention-wise, but this one’s obviously a lot different because she starts tweeting out whenever she wants to push people to the site,” Yates said of Snooki. “It’s just incredible to have somebody out there who has that kind of notoriety.”

Yates said the company has received constant attention since partnering with Pilozzi, although his company has had a large distribution of a variety of NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball and collegiate products for several years.
“People judge what we’re doing by her, and sometimes that’s an unfair assessment. It’s always been a solid product line.”

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