Tony Linehan, Director of Foot Solutions, with Christine Mccarthy, part of the Foot Solutions team. Photos: Richard Coleman

A step in the right direction

In 2007, Tony Linehan dived feet first into the world of retail, opening Ireland’s first Foot Solutions store on Grand Parade in Cork city.

The business hit the ground running, and having survived a major recession, a pandemic, and a myriad of other challenges, the flagship store is now proudly celebrating 15 years of business.

A US-based franchise, Foot Solutions uses state of the art technology to design truly custom orthotics for every customer’s unique needs, pairing them expertly with comfortable and stylish footwear.

Looking back over the past decade and a half, Tony says the impeccable standard of expertise and customer service within his staff, plus the quality and effectiveness of the product, are the key reasons for the shop’s longevity and continued success.

“The key difference is that we had, and continue to have, an incredible bunch of colleagues in the store. Many of them originally came from Roche’s Stores on St Patrick’s Street and some of them are still here. They came from a business where customer service was paramount and nothing else mattered, and that included sales,” says Tony.

He continues: “We have always had an ethos, 'Don't make a sale if the customer isn't happy'. It’s a regular occurrence even today for one of our team to say, 'Look, this is an expensive purchase, why don't you go away and think about it?'.

“I would put the majority of our success down to the customer service provided by the teams in all of our stores. I'd be nothing without those people.”

Back in 2006, Tony and his brother John travelled to America in search of a franchise they felt would sit well in the Irish market. When they discovered Foot Solutions, they were confident they had found the perfect fit.

Tony says: “That was the big point of difference when we started, that there was nobody providing the combination of orthotics and comfortable, ordinary shoes.

“There were a large number of podiatrists and medical consultants, but nobody was in a position to manufacture an orthotic, which is what we do, and then fit it correctly into the type of shoe people love to wear.

“John was the scout over in the US to see what was available in any franchising area. He came across Foot Solutions and we went to visit a store in Washington. The owner described it as ‘a business with a never ending supply of customers’, in that everybody will have a problem with their feet at some point in time. Like tyres on a car, our feet will wear out at some point, and they need a bit of assistance. We help people to prolong their feet and to get the most out of them as they get older.”

After opening in Cork in 2007, Tony and John went on to open 10 more stores across Ireland and the UK, and although Tony’s background was not in retail, his optimism and confidence in the business and the product was more than enough to see it thrive.

“I'm an accountant by profession, so I would be generally a conservative sort of chap. Diving from my world to the retail world was a big, big step, but I'm also a very optimistic chap. The glass will always be half full as far as I'm concerned,” says Tony.

Looking ahead, Tony (58) says he has no intentions of retiring, which is good because Foot Solutions has just completed a full technological update, bringing in state of the art systems from Germany.

“Our original scanning device was a US-produced machine which has been incredibly effective for us. It was a pin mapping system. Now we've gone to a photographic scanning system coming from Germany. The Germans tend to be the leaders in the manufacturing of orthotics, so we have moved on to the highest level of technology available today,” he said.

Tony says he remembers feelings of both excitement and trepidation before the very first days of business in 2007, but that if given the chance, he would change nothing about his journey.

“I'm the type of individual where the term retirement does not exist in my vocabulary. If the world remains wonderful, I'll be sitting here talking to you on the 30th anniversary of the shop. It's been magnificent. There were ups and downs, but it's been an absolutely wonderful journey and I am continuing to enjoy it.”