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Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
New shoes may be term time distraction
By Conor Macauley
BBC News

The doll is hidden in the heel of the shoe
The doll is hidden in the heel of the shoe
It has been a masterstroke in marketing.

How to make a boring buy like a school shoe into a must-have accessory which will be the talk of the playground?

Well, Clarke's shoes have managed it - by putting a tiny plastic toy in a secret compartment in the sole of the shoe.

A little doll for girls, a tiny clip-together car for boys.

You get them out by lifting a flap inside the sole, where they are stored in a hollowed out part of the heel.

They have been heavily advertised on children's television channels.

In some cases children know what shoe they want before they even come into the shop.

'Pester power'

At a stroke, Clarkes have harnessed 'pester power', making their YOTOY school shoe the most popular this autumn.

Reid's bought in 1,000 pairs and they have sold them all, bar a few of the biggest and smallest sizes.

The YOTOYs have outsold their next nearest rival by a ratio of eight to one.

Paul Hicks of Reids said it has been a phenomenon.

"Sometimes the children coming in don't even like the shoe," he said.

"But when it comes to what's inside them, that's obviously the main selling point for them.

Kerry Porter said the shoes will prove to be a distraction
Kerry Porter said the shoes will prove to be a distraction

"Sometimes there's a bit of a disagreement between the parents and the children, but the children tend to win most times because of the toy."

Joanne Scott was in the shop buying shoes for her seven-year-old son, Robbie.

"As soon as he clapped eyes on the shoes, he was transfixed by the tiny car in the heel," she said.

"Even as the shop assistant was checking the size, Robbie was focused on fixing his wheels on, oblivious to her questions about comfort and fit."


Joanne, though, wasn't too fussed on the YOTOY.

"I don't think it's a good idea. It could be a bit of a distraction if other boys in his class have them.

"They'd all be sharing the toys and looking at them. But I suppose once the novelty wears off, I suppose it could be ok."

But other mothers are delighted by the new product.

They say it's means an end to the annual battle with their little darlings over school shoes.

Julie McBride, whose daughter Lois is going into primary two on Monday is a case in point.

"I think it's great. As long as they fit and want to wear them, that's the most important thing," she said.

But how will the new shoes play out in the classroom, particularly in primary one, when children are hard enough to settle into the routine of school discipline?

Kerry Porter is primary one teacher in Largymore Primary on Lisburn's Hillhall Road.

She has already had children in her class come up to tell her about the secret in their shoes.

And she thinks PE time, will be a real test of how big a distraction, the YOTOY shoes become.

"When they're changing their shoes for PE, I think it's going to cause ructions in the classroom, as people are pulling out their toys, comparing them, and of course losing them," she said.

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