The Case of the Swastika’d Soles

Erik Bernstein crisis management Leave a Comment

Mistake steps on profits for footwear distributor

Score another one for sharp-eyed Redditors, and another financial loss for a company that failed to spot an issue before it created public problems. California-based Conal Footwear found itself in bad spot after a Reddit user shared [warning, NSFW language at link location] an image of prints created by a new pair of boots.

swastika boot soles prints

The pic quickly went viral online, with nearly 52,000 comments appearing on the Reddit thread alone. While many poked fun at what appeared to be a terrible but innocent mistake, danger sprung up in the form of endorsements from neo-Nazi groups and internet sleuths who pointed out that the boot shared a name – Polar Fox – with a WWII Military operation. To its credit, and long-term benefit, Conal Footwear got proactive immediately. The boots were on their way to being recalled within 48 hours, and a statement was shared to media as well, smack on the front page of the company website (something we see far too rarely):

To our Customers and the Public:

At Conal International Trading, Inc., we strive to bring high-quality shoes that provide the best experience and comfort possible to our customers. We were informed recently the company imported boots that have an offensive symbol designed on them. We are extremely sorry for the frustration this has caused our customers and the public. The boots have been recalled and we have stopped selling the item.

We would like to issue our sincerest apologies to our customers and to anyone who was offended by the Swastika imprint that the boots left behind. The design was not intentional and was a mistake made by our manufacturers in China. There was never any intention to include any offensive designs on the products we import. We will be investigating the issue.

Conal International Trading, Inc. does not promote hate or discrimination of any kind. Again, we deeply regret that this item caused offense and apologize for the mistake.


Conal International Trading, Inc.

Altogether a solid response, and one that should prevent this from becoming a lasting issue. Of course, it would have been better to avoid the apology than have to deliver it at all, but hindsight does tend to be 20/20.

Erik Bernstein

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