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The Foot Care Business Opportunity

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Ten years ago, a trip to Europe would reveal a large disparity of the coffee attitudes between Americans and Europeans. Today, thanks to the vision of Howard Schultz and Starbucks the popularity of espresso bars has come to America. Now, disparity exists in the foot care attitudes between Americans and Europeans. Americans wear shoes for style, often foregoing comfort and adding to foot problems, whereas Europeans value comfort as well as style.

"Europeans have historically placed a high value on foot care not only in the footwear they purchase, but in the care of their feet by chiropodists--our equivalent of a podiatrist. Yet, many Americans don't utilize the services of a foot doctor until their feet are troubling them," says Patti Glick. Glick, known as "The Foot Nurse" is a foot care educator who speaks to companies with employees of foot intensive jobs about foot care.

Over 75% of Americans will have a foot problem in their lifetime, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association. Packaged Facts pegs the total foot care market in the U.S. at $900 million by 2011.

Catering to the foot care market takes many forms from retailing, manufacturing or corporate consulting, such as the Foot Nurse. Or consider retail franchiser, Foot Solutions which has experienced explosive growth going from 18 to 240 franchises.

Driving Forces: Two primary forces driving this business opportunity are aging baby boomers and the diabetic market. With age comes more foot problems: corns, calluses, and foot pain. HMO's do not often cover podiatry, leaving the market open to aging boomers who will provide their own self-care.

The other growing market is diabetes. Diabetic consumers are more prone to a host of foot problems; from ulcers and skin problems to poor circulation. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), estimates over 18 million Americans have diabetes. Over 15% of diabetics, will develop some form of foot ulcers. Diabetes impacts over 100 million people worldwide, and proper foot care is vital to disease treatment.

Risks: Industry powerhouse, Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, with the Dr. Scholl's brand have strong ties in the retail distribution market owning a large portion of shelf space. Any new entrants will have to focus on the smaller markets less attractive to bigger companies or create new channels of distribution, such as free-standing kiosk operations.

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