People often ask me: “where and how do you source your stock?”.
They visit the shop and are amazed that there are, in fact, so many lovely, longer shoes available but I do have to search high and low for them, often I pay higher prices for them and sometimes only a small portion of a brand’s range goes up to the longer sizes.
First, the search: what did we do before Google? So many of the brands I have found have been from searching online. For some, I’ve had to order over the internet as they don’t have Australian agents and that can be tricky, although not as much as I had feared. While I cannot physically see the shoe and touch it, I can usually get a pretty good idea from the photographs.
What is difficult, and it doesn’t matter if I see the shoe or not, is that I never see it in a longer size so I’m usually looking at a size 7 or 8 and then have to try to imagine what it would like as a size 12 or 13. You know how some shoes are just not flattering when they become longer? That is what I try and keep in mind.
Obviously I knew a lot of brands from my own shoe collection, which gave me a great head-start on finding labels.
I also found the European Footwear Importers Group, which consists of Australian-based agents for European and independent labels. They show their shoes to retailers twice a year ahead of each new season in a travelling roadshow to most capital cities.
It’s great when there is an Aussie agent as they take on a lot of the risk involved in ordering shoes from overseas. Sometimes I have to pay a deposit upfront, but mostly that’s not the case. I also don’t have to worry about coordinating a freight forwarder to get the shoes to me so the wholesale cost price for each shoe includes freight to my shop.
Another fabulous source of information is you!
My customers have often recommended brands from around the world and I follow up each one to see if they have the sizes required for The Shoe Garden, plus are a good fit for the shop. This is how I found Sseko, for example, the Ugandan sandal that I can’t wait to see this Summer. They should be arriving in-store soon. I recently found two amazing French labels that make their shoes in longer sizes, both from customer recommendations: Oomichoozmi and Charlotte Vanel.
So at the moment I have shoes from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the US, Italy and Spain with new shoes arriving later in the year from France and Portugal too.
But they often cost more!
Imagine the outcry if you paid more for a size 14 dress than a size 12 dress!
They don’t, as far as I know, charge different wholesale prices in the clothing industry but sadly some still do in the footwear industry, especially for European brands. Sometimes it’s an extra $5 or $10 per pair or an extra 10% for anything above a 10 so I pay one price for size 10s and then another for 11 upwards. That starts to add up when you are buying 8 or 10 of every style and in every colour.
And yes, I do have to pass that cost on so that means my customers are paying more simply because they have a longer foot. And that’s not fair.
And there’s a limited choice!
Any brand that recognises the need for longer sizes deserves to be congratulated. Some hedge their bets a bit by only doing some of their range in the longer sizes … sometimes one-third or one-half. Sadly, that portion is often (but certainly not always) the more boring, conventional shoes.
So, there are many challenges when searching for longer shoes … to ensure they still look good despite their extra length, that cost doesn’t become an issue if I am charged extra and that enough of the range is available in sizes of styles that I am interested in.
There is a lot to get your head around when ordering stock, but I feel my confidence growing each day and I believe I am becoming more discerning with what I am buying and how. That’s such a great feeling too … always learning. It makes your journey so much more exciting.
Take care and see you soon at The Shoe Garden, Carol 🙂