I have always thought I’m a good shopper. Not for groceries or anything practical, I hasten to add, but for clothing, books and homewares … things that I adore. I can spend many, many happy hours looking, admiring and buying. But despite being a devoted shopper, nothing can quite prepare you for the first time you order hundreds of pairs of shoes for tens of thousands of dollars. In January, once the sale of my house went unconditional, I knew I would soon have money in the bank to invest in stock and premises so the time had come to start shopping! I had a long list of shoe brands (mostly taken from what was in my own wardrobe) and began making contact with suppliers and agents. To my horror, for many it was much too late to buy for winter and everyone wanted me to hurry up and place my order for summer as, particularly the European brands, work six to eight months in advance.
My stomach lurched for the first time on this journey. I was due to leave my full-time job on the last day of January and had planned to open The Shoe Garden in late March or early April. For a while, I wondered if I would ever get any shoes in time for opening.
Thanks goodness, some Aussie and New Zealand brands came to the rescue and I bought shoes from Minx, Ziera, Diana Ferrari and Supersoft, plus a great new Fijian brand called Dahia Shoes. But my real saviour was the US brand, J.Renee who have their own warehouse in Texas and have amazing shoes, both in number and in style. Overall, however, it meant I had a smaller than normal winter range of shoes and I didn’t have many boots or flats as it was so “late” in the season, but at least I had some stock!
I also bought from many more labels for summer, trying to focus on shoes that were not nanna-like or boring. I tried to not just get shoes that I like (but that’s so tempting and so easy to do!) but designs that I thought others would appreciate. Of course, even after just nine weeks of trading, I have such a better idea of what women want but I won’t be able to put this knowledge into use, and for customers to benefit from it, until next winter in 2013!Of course, I’m assured by those in the trade, one can never get it completely right. Just now, as I write this, a woman has come in and walked around the shop. I could sense she wasn’t happy with the choices and she left without a word. That still kind of hurts but I have to learn that I can’t be everything to everyone. Oh, and not to take it personally!
As I’m a visual person, the best way I have worked out to buy my shoes is to cut out pictures from catalogues and stick them up on a wall. This way, I ensure I don’t duplicate looks, colours or styles and that I have a range of heel heights (many more flats are coming!), a range for any number of occasions (casual, work, party, bridal etc), a range of colours (so many people still want black shoes; it surprises me, but I’m listening) and a range of prices. This last one is a big one. I always want to ensure that the majority of shoes at The Shoe Garden are in the $100 to $200 bracket. For too long, women with longer feet have had to pay high prices for shoes they don’t really like as there has been no choice.
So next month, I will be shopping again for The Shoe Garden for winter shoes that probably won’t arrive until February or March 2013, and I will do so with as much enthusiasm and excitement as my first time, but also thankfully with some feedback under my belt and greater awareness too.
Until next time, Carol