Welcome to The Shoe Garden - For women with longer feet!

Behind the brand: Rollie Nation

I do very much respect independent shoe designers.

By that I mean individuals who sit down and sketch their creations, carefully select their materials from uppers to laces to bows and buckles, and oversee their creations coming to life.

What I don’t mean is those who travel to Europe twice a year, visit shoe shops and take covert photos, and then copy the designs back in Australia.

I stock brands who do both and that’s fine. But the independents are a personal favourite … like Rollie Nation.

I’ve only stocked Rollies for three seasons and it’s been interesting watching my customers get to know the brand and fall in love with the super lightweight, fun and quirky styles.

Rollies make you smile. I love a shoe that makes you happy!

Created by Melbourne man, Vince Lebon, who now lives in New York with his family, Rollies are on happy feet around the world.

And it’s easy to see why.

First, they are incredibly light. Rollie proudly claim they weigh less than two bananas! Indeed, they get even more specific saying they weigh 20g less than a pair of Havaianas.

Vince says he was inspired by his wife, who is a flight attendant, and the problem of travelling with several pairs of shoes and the subsequent extra kilograms. With Rollies being so light, the idea is that you can travel with as many pairs as you want. Sounds like heaven to me!

Inspired daily by music, fashion and the colour around him, Vince took a punt and self-funded his creations in 2012 (the same year that The Shoe Garden opened!).

He sold 500 pairs in five weeks at the South Melbourne Market and fast forward to today, and his creations are stocked in 11 countries, and range from casual to stylish, for men, women and children.

What’s the old saying … “Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.” Well, everyone seems to be copying Vince these days, but I reckon no one can match his flair for either design or style.

Until next time
Carol & CCx

 

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Hit refresh on The Shoe Garden’s website

One of my goals this financial year is to grow my online sales and for that to happen, it was clear that I needed to hit refresh on my website.

It’s more than five years ago since it was created and given it’s based on a platform aligned with my Point of Sale that has only recently been upgraded, it seemed the perfect time to do so.

The amazing Anthony from Tailored Media has been overseeing the upgrade, patiently (and I do mean … patiently!) explaining to me how the new admin area works and asking me to twist my brain (or so it feels like) to think about how to showcase all the information required on my website and how to configure this behind the scenes as it were. I love being empowered to manage my website myself.

And there’s good news ahead. My new website will:

  • load faster and be more reliable
  • allow you to leave reviews for individual shoes
  • be completely mobile friendly
  • and allow you to search for exactly what you want by filters, including size, colour, width and brand so you can, for example, search for black court shoes in a size 12 by Diana Ferrari.

I can’t wait and will keep you posted when it’s live.

Until next time
Carol & CCx

Hello Spring

My favourite season is about to start.

That’s in real-life with today being the first day of Spring.

But in fashion, Spring essentially started two months ago in July when the first of my new season shoes started to arrive. By this week, the end of August, I had the majority of my stock for the warm weather ahead.

Fashion is so far ahead of reality; too far in my humble opinion, but I don’t know how to fight it when everyone does it.

I can’t not have stock when others do. That could cost me precious sales.

Sometimes, not even the suppliers know when stock is arriving thanks to potential delays in production, quality controls, transportation dramas, even getting stuck in Customs for weeks. Of course, the sooner they receive the shoes, naturally they want to distribute them to retailers such as myself to start the countdown for payment.

I know some customers are amazed by it all. One woman was nonplussed when I said I had run out of her size in a sandal. “But it’s not even summer yet,” she said. “I know,” I replied. “But it’s been popular and I’ve had it in store for a few weeks now.”

I continue to struggle with guilt and joy when it comes to running out of sizes and styles. I hate not being able to provide a customer with what they want, but my business is selling shoes and the faster I do so, the better for my business. I just have to hope there’s another option that I can help the customer to find that they will also love.

But back to the joys of Spring …

For me, it’s not just the hotter weather, which I adore, but these days it’s all about the shoes!

There are so many more opportunities to wear gorgeous shoes at this time of year. From thongs to sandals to slides and slingbacks; styles overall are more playful, colourful and just plain fun. There are also so many more occasions from school formals, gala dinners and race days, to Chrissy parties, travelling, holidays and for everyday, too, of course.

And, oh my, the colour. The shop brightens up in the latter half of the year, although as I have hinted already, my Winter 2018 collection, which I’ve just finalised buying, has the most colour ever.

So, enjoy this gorgeous time of year! And don’t forget to ignore the calendar when it comes to fashion!

Until next time
Carol & CCx

Putting your best foot forward!

I bet people were wondering what on earth we were doing…

Twelve gorgeous women, in a tight circle, with their right legs extended to the centre of the circle, much like we were doing the Hokey Pokey!

“Put your right leg in…”

But we weren’t doing the children’s dance.

These beautiful customers, my darling mum and myself were at QPAC on Tuesday night to see the spectacular Kinky Boots musical. And, of course, I needed photos of us all and this particular shot was designed to show off our gorgeous shoes and boots … all from The Shoe Garden and all looking amazing.

It truly was a fantastic evening for so many reasons:

  • to say “hey, thanks” to some wonderful customers who have supported The Shoe Garden for many years;
  • to laugh in delight when the usher said: “Are you from The Shoe Garden? I have bought shoes from you and read on Facebook that you were coming tonight. I was hoping you were going to be at my door”. What a small world!
  • to watch a musical devoted to people who love to make shoes and people who love to wear shoes, the higher the better;
  • to sit back and think about my own business that also caters for a niche market;
  • and to appreciate the overall message of tolerance and respect for everyone.

Kinky Boots gets 10/10 from The Shoe Garden!

Until next time
Carol & CCx

KB Our shoes and boots

It takes time (& nerves) to put together the perfect shoe collection

I’ve spent most of this week trying to find time between gorgeous customers, emails, phone calls and 25 huge cartons of Summer stock deliveries, to consider which shoes and boots I will be purchasing for next Winter. 

It’s a little hard to channel the cooler months and anticipate what people will like in around eight months’ time when this week the temperature outside is topping 30 degrees and you’re admiring countless sandals as you unpack them.

But picture me out the back of the shop.  

In front of a large, white cupboard in the hallway that’s a perfect blank canvas. 

I have a big ball of BluTac and I’m sticking up photos from catalogues that I’ve cut out. Some brands don’t have catalogues, so I take photos myself, print them out and stick them up instead.

The photos are organised into columns, each representing an important category: flats, low heels, high heels, glam, ankle boots and long boots. Oh, and ath-leisure, too. 

I arrange them in order of retail price, cheapest at the top.

Anything that goes to a size 13 and above gets marked. They’re extra special as, while my size 13+ market is approximately only 15% of my customers, they deserve a choice. They’ve been even more starved of options than the rest of us.

And then, well, then I stand back and ponder. For. A. Very. Long. Time!

Without exception, I want more than I can afford. Sometimes three times more than I can afford, which showcases my love for a gorgeous shoe or boot! 

But being a self-taught, getting-tough business woman, I have also learned I must stick to my budget; stick to what sells well (eg. more flats and low heels than high); stick to suppliers that give me great payment terms, discounts and are lovely to deal with; and stick to finding the best collection for a wide range of needs, tastes and budgets that I can.  

I ponder and consider and fret and dream about shoes for these few hectic weeks. I do know that I will eventually settle on an exceptional range; it just takes time.

So, until next week, when hopefully my Winter 2018 order is finally locked in…
Carol & CCx
 

Not much need for shoes … at least for a weekend!

For someone who owns a shoe shop and adores gorgeous shoes, I was so happy this past weekend to not be wearing any shoes!

Walking along the beach on North Stradbroke Island, squishing the sand between my toes and letting the cool salty water wash over them, was idyllic.

I hadn’t had a weekend off work in a very long time; a weekend away was long overdue.

So last Sunday, CC and I were on the 7am barge to Straddie and while the weather was grey and miserable (somewhat matching my mood at that moment), the next day was divine and my mood, spirits and outlook soared.

I forgot an important lesson, you see. To spend time in, with, watching and admiring nature is soul-satisfying and nurturing.

I sat and watched a kangaroo munching on grass with her joey peeking out of her pouch. I saw whales slapping their tails with carefree abandon. I got teary when I saw it for the first time. It was just so beautiful.

I also admired for ages a turtle bobbing up and down in crystal blue water and gasped when I saw dolphins hurling themselves through the air. And all day I listened to kookaburras laughing and each time I felt my heart grow a little more.

I stayed at the divine (and dog-friendly) Stradbroke Island B&B and was made to feel so at home. Hosts Diane and Denis were so gracious and kind. I can’t wait to go back!

This is not to say that during these two days of bliss I ignored the retail world. Within an hour of arriving, I had already bought a fabulous caftan that I wore most of the time I was there. I was a little proud of that!

Early on Tuesday morning, on the first ferry back to the mainland, I started tapping away on my iPhone to create a post for Facebook. Then I realised what I was doing … I put the phone away and just sat and watched the sunrise as the ferry glided through the calm water back to Brisbane.

I’ve been feeling fabulous ever since. Lesson learned.

Until next time,
Carol & CCx

CC on the beach

 

Happy tears at The Shoe Garden

A woman cried in my shop this week.

She sat in the front showroom and wiped away her tears, but they kept coming.

Normally, you’d think this would be a problem if it happened in your shop, but it’s not uncommon at The Shoe Garden.

The woman was focused on her daughter who was smiling and laughing as she tried on a beautiful pair of sandals.

Her daughter is 40 and for the past 20+ years has struggled to find shoes that fit.

Other than thongs.

Or sneakers.

But watching her try on shoes was lovely for her mother. At one point., the daughter said: “I can’t believe I have girly feet again.”

As a business owner, I love it every time a customer walks into my shop, but I do enjoy it especially when new customers visit. Their reactions are priceless, or those of their relatives who know how difficult it has been for them to find shoes that fit, let alone are fabulous.

Tears, hugs, high fives, dancing, breaking into song … I’ve seen and heard it all!

I feel their pain and their joy. I struggled, too, to find shoes that fit my size 12 feet for such a long time, which is why I knew, I just knew, that when the idea popped into my head one emotional Sunday in November 2011 to open my own longer-sized, women’s shoe shop in Brisbane, that it was a rock solid idea. Nothing could have, or since has, dissuaded me from that.

There was a chasm waiting to be filled of desperate girls and women who were being neglected simply because their feet were a few centimetres longer than what was deemed the norm.

Sharing such an emotional journey with my customers is incredibly rewarding and inspiring and is truly one of the best things about my job.

Until next time,
Carol & CCx

I hugged boots and was speechless … what happened at the Winter 2018 Shoe Expo!

It was the luscious, blush pink microsuede boot that did it … I picked it up and hugged it.

As I stood there, swaying slightly (seriously!!), I knew there was a different vibe in the air. I could feel it!

Whereas this past Winter saw shoes and boots that were quite subdued in style and with little colour other than various shades of taupes and browns, it looks like 2018 will see an explosion of bold colours and textures for when the temperatures cool.

Nearly all the ranges I viewed at the shoe expo on Monday were braver and more exciting than I’ve seen before in a winter range. Yes, there was always an offering in black, and some sensible and classic choices that I will always include in my range, but some of the colour choices were particularly surprising.

While there is still a fair bit of metallic, especially rose gold, I saw a lot of gorgeous styles in shades of beautiful blue, from sky blue to cobalt and navy, often mixed with other colours. Indeed, that was a definite trend … two-toned creations, or even three or four!

Striking shades of green got a nod, from khaki to grassy, and lots and lots of red of all hues, from plum to cherry and everything in between.

Grey was a gorgeous neutral that appeared a few times, as well as the aforementioned, swoon-worthy blush!

And it doesn’t end with colour … textures and style have been ramped up a notch, too.

Think pastel pink and blue pythonskin-patterned, patent leather for a sassy ankle boot!

Imagine a patchwork of colours and patterns on beautiful flats.

Pretty embroidery and lush brocades on shoes and boots were a highlight, often also appearing on brogues and lace-ups.

While ankle boots again reigned supreme, there were more long boots available than the past few seasons. It looks like they are making their inevitable comeback.

Slides or mules were also very popular, as was the use of velvet: very tactile and lovely to wear.

Block heels were common, on both shoes and boots, as well as unusual heels at jaunty angles or with flashes of metallic trim.

And the pick of the season so far (I still have a few more brands to see so I’m being a bit presumptuous) but I was super impressed (almost speechless, in fact!) with the Katie ‘n’ Me range, an Aussie-designed brand that I’ve stocked from Day One. It was a superb range that I’m incredibly excited to show my gorgeous customers in February or March next year, along with so many more delightful, long shoes and boots across all my favourite brands.

But, as always at this time of year, while my mind is swirling with options and ideas of what to buy for next winter, I also have a superb summer range due in coming days and weeks and a long, hot summer ahead. Some has already arrived; so much, much more is still to come.

Until next time
Carol & CCx

Colour tree

Life as a shoe shop owner … one week at a time!

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about my blog and feeling a little lost as I write it; a little unsure of its focus or purpose.

Given that I’m popping up in your Inbox every Friday, or you’re reading this on my website, I want this to be worthy of your attention.

When I thought about it, I decided that what I really want to write about is my life as a proud shoe shop owner; what has happened in that week in either shoes or in my business. I want to give you an insight into the shoe business!

This new direction was inspired by last week. My, what a week it was. You know, when everything comes together; when things that never usually happen do happen; when the unexpected and the unnerving rattle you a little?

What I learned after this week is that it’s pretty darn easy to do what you have to do when life is humming along nicely (things like eat well, exercise, get stuck into your to-do list at work and at home, ensure the world knows you’re still around by socialising occasionally, even though you feel like you’re drowning in work…). The real test is when challenges are thrown at you. Or the odd grenade.

It started when my garage door went crazy last Sunday. Who would have thought? Up and down it went, not caring which button I pushed, until it closed completely and would not open, not even manually. Already panicked with a website issue and ongoing emails to get it sorted; already pretty tired after spending the morning un-doing my sale which had ended the day before; I was flummoxed. I had to be at a lunch with friends and I was already late and it appeared that I wasn’t going to be driving anywhere for a while.

I raced upstairs and called a taxi. I raced back downstairs and smelled smoke. I raced back upstairs to cancel the taxi and lunch and then stayed at home to monitor the situation while trying to get hold of the after hours electrician. He was unavailable as he had had an accident and was in hospital. His day was much worse.

Although, I have to say, I was in a fair bit of pain myself. My back went during all this and oh boy, did it hurt. I’ve been struggling since this time last year with back issues and have never felt as vulnerable. Then I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my hip and the back issues seemed to disappear. Until it happened again. Luckily I could see my physio on Monday thanks to a cancellation and she was confident, after lots of intense and deep remedial treatment, that it would disappear in a few days. It did.

Meantime, my darling dad went into hospital also on the Monday to have knee reconstruction surgery. It’s never nice seeing anyone you love in hospital or in pain or not feeling well. He made it through the fog of morphine and anaesthetic and after five nights in hospital, returned home and is learning to use crutches and be a passenger in a car for a few weeks and hopefully not too much of a back seat driver for mum’s sake!

Midweek, my darling Maltese CC also had a health scare. I ditched another early morning appointment for the second time (the first time I had to cancel because I still couldn’t get my car out of the garage!) and raced her to the vet. She was checked thoroughly and no reason could be found for her state. She was completely miserable and uncharacteristically disinterested in life. At 13.5 years, I was quietly beside myself, but after a sleepless night, checking on her constantly, she was back to her normal self the next day. Tail wagging; jumping around; happy as can be.

And then yesterday, just when I thought life had calmed down a little, I broke up a fight outside the shop.

No fisticuffs were involved, or even weapons, but there was lots of pecking and an awful amount of screeching and feathers flying as it was a fight between about 15 to 20 birds!

I know it’s nature and nature can be harsh, but I couldn’t stand to see so many birds at risk on such a busy road doing whatever it was they were doing. As it turns out, a woman driving past stopped to help and a man collecting his drycleaning, helped me untangle two of the birds whose claws were twisted together. Not sure if that’s how you “take down” someone in bird land but geez, it was vicious. And while one was down for the count on the road after a sickening thump with a car, and the two that we separated also seemed hurt, all three ended up flying away.

So perhaps that’s the lesson. No matter what happens, hang in there and stay tough. Life shakes you up sometimes and the test is to keep fighting! Eventually things will work out and you can fly again.

Until next time,
Carol & CCx

Deciding to open a shoe shop in just four hours

I am not sure who is more excited that I am in The Australian Women’s Weekly this month … me or my darling mum who has been reading the magazine for decades!

It was very exciting to open up to page 76 and see my story about deciding to change my life, walk away from my 23-year career and open my own longer-sized shoe shop … all in just four hours.

The main story is all about the lost art of spontaneity, so I guess I qualify as someone who embraces being spontaneous!

I have always been, and continue to be, a firm believer that life begins outside your comfort zone. That is where the magic happens.

Until next time,
Carol & CC

PS. I love it that even CC gets a mention in the story! As she should.

AWW