Being one of the original shoe bloggers in the industry, I got to know a lot of people i.e. shop owners, brand owners, people in the shoe industry etc. And because of this, I get to hear a lot about what is going on, for everyone, which allows me to understand the industry better. The last few years have been interesting to say the least. A lot of ups and downs with the growth of social media and globalization and brands from all around the world now being able to market anyone in the world at the drop of a dime. It has made the options endless for the consumer, but truth be told, it has made the industry overly saturated for the companies as they compete for the global, internet consumer. And whether you know it or not, many brands, factories, retails stores are suffering due to this. So the question is, what is going on in the mind of the consumers? What has changed for them in the shoe industry? Was it all a trend? I have a few theories of my own so thought that I would discuss them and then ask for all of you to leave your comments/opinions.
People are not wearing dress shoes as much. With the way that the world is changing to be more casual, you see more and more people wearing these hybrid dress shoes with sneaker soles, or just full-on wearing sneakers with their work attire. People want to be comfortable and therefore the idea of wearing leather soled shoes in the age of ‘the sneaker’ looks less and less appealing to them so they stop buying $400 dress shoes when they can get 2 pairs of $200 sneakers. And as workplace dress codes seem to be getting more and more relaxed, the idea of wearing your sneakers to work seems to be more and more appealing.
Too many cheap, online internet brands ruining it for the good quality brands. With this craze of social media and the ability to just create a shoe brand and build it on Instagram, the industry has become immensely saturated and the consumer has a million options to choose from these days. The problem lies in the fact that everyone’s marketing campaign is this: ‘We are such and such online shoe company making handmade shoes that have cut the middleman and therefore able to sell you the “best dress shoes in the world” for only $299.’ And the consumer believes this crap and buys it. And the shoes are mediocre and the client believes that this mediocre is the end all be all, never understanding why they should invest in the more expensive, and better-made product.
People have too many dress shoes. Sometimes, I feel that buying well-made dress shoes was a trend that boomed in the beginning of the social media craze and being able to buy European made shoes from the US in only a few clicks on the computer. People went shoe crazy and were buying 10-20 shoes in a year. And let’s be honest, who really needs that many shoes? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I probably have around 150 but I am a bit sick for shoes. But I don’t need them all, not even close. So, lot’s of people started buying up all of these exotic European shoe brands that were never available to them before without taking a trip to Europe. But $20,000 dollars later with a closet full of shoes, they started to realize, ‘shit, what I have done? I don’t need all of these. I better start selling them off now.’ So there was this huge boom of consumers by dress shoes which made it great for the original brands that were there to be there for the boom. But now has come the crash were people spent more than they could and/or needed and now have stopped buying dress shoes full stop.
Or maybe there is a 4th option I have not yet thought about and would love to hear all of your opinions on why the shoe industry has quieted down. And this is coming from a lot of brands/shop owners out there who have been struggling to keep up with the boom of 2016/early 2017.
Look forward to hearing your comments!
Justin, ‘The Shoe Snob’
Reselling has really tanked. I was a full-time luxury clothing and shoe reseller on Ebay for 7 years. Suits, dress shirts and even high end pre-owned shoes are easily had for much less than 5 years ago. I enjoy dressing well. For $3-400 you can pick up a great pair of gently worn shoes; Lobb, CJ Shell, Cleverley too.
Hi Justin. I agree with the three options you’ve explained. A fourth could be the emerging online sellers from other counties with lower labor costs. Here in this blog you’ve highlighted sellers from many countries, for example Vietnam, selling some amazing footwear at a lower price than would be sustainable for other companies.
Competition has lowered prices that I’m thankful for. however I think the more youthful focused brands are more sensitive to the changing trends in the marketplace like the gradual fading of suits from the workplace and the need for increased comfort and now increased instagram-ability. Rubber/lug/vibram/dainite soled dress shoes should have been introduced much earlier as I usually buy these only rather than the conventional leather soled pairs.
Joseph M. Rossini
I think you’ve highlighted a pitfall of selling products that last ten to twenty years. Based on what I’ve read in your blog, the recession years were hard on small high-quality shoe makers. After the economy picked up again, people probably started buying better shoes again, but now won’t need to make as many purchases because good shoes last so long. And as you’ve pointed out, we don’t need that many pairs. I have about eight pairs that I LOVE wearing and several more that I like to wear once in a while.
But that means I only get to wear the shoes I love about once every 1.5-2 weeks.
Giant producers of all types of products learned the lesson of planned obsolescence and producing goods that are low cost and cheap, so that consumers need to buy them more frequently. Not a very honorable way to do business in my opinion, but it does drive profits up, right?
I think a potential solution for the better shoe makers might be more blogs like yours extolling the virtues of great shoes, including the value to spending more money on those shoes.
As far as people not needing to wear dress shoes to work as often, this is true. However, although I do not need to wear dress shoes to work every day, I CHOOSE to wear them to work everyday because I like the impression it creates about me and because I enjoy looking at them on my feet. Indeed, I wear them to non work functions as well, unless I am exercising, hiking, or working on my home improvement projects.
Again, I think a potential solution is to convince people of the value of dressing well, including wearing good shoes. Of course, that is a big change to make and one shoe blogger can’t do it alone.
However, at the end of the day, the good shoemakers will survive if they plan well and market well and they don’t all expect to get wealthy. Quality like yours eventually wins out if you can weather the ups and downs. For example, I’ve purchased shoes in the same price range you sell, but I was very unhappy with them. Also, some shoes in that range that I am happy with, but, nevertheless, not has happy as I am as with your shoes. I will most likely never buy shoes from those companies again. Now, your website is the first place I look for shoes. Your website is the first place I recommend people look for shoes as well.
You sell a great product for a very reasonable price. I keep telling myself I need to buy some more before everyone figures out what a great value your shoes are and they drive the prices up.
The question of where the (quality) shoe industry has gone finds some of the answers in your blog above. Maybe to add to the discussion is looking more closely at the demand side.
Supply: Certainly the supply of shoes (quality or not is debatable) has grown in the last decades due to (1) lower quality standards, (2) outsourcing production and not to forget (3) customer demand.
Demand: The shoe industry is producing what the customer is asking for. I do not think this is a short term effect caused by a recession although the recent recession will have damaged the “high end” shoe industry severely. Buying and wearing shoes is a habit for most men and people buy and wear what they know and are accustomed to. The customer demand has changed over the last generations as society has grown more and more informal. This has resulted in the fact that most men are no longer required to wear dress shoes for work and the group of men to come in contact to our coveted shoe industry is shrinking. When they are not gently pushed into the “high end” shoe industry from a work standpoint it is less likely they will ever come in contact with it again. And these people raise their children based on their experiences resulting in boys with no homegrown love for good shoes and no formal need when they grow older.
I am glad that a lot of your readers still are in love with great shoes and this will keep the industry alive. I am not UK based but since I was bitten by the bug I make a point in visiting the island (ok, mainly London) every two years to find myself a new pair. Just doing my part!
There was boom and we may be seeing the beginnings of a subsequent bust. Adaptable brands will mostly survive. Brands stuck in the past, and those who overextended their finances during the boom, will perish.
The market is moving away from dress shoes, but while the market for dress shoes shrinks the market for casual shoes grows – creating a (mostly new) market for well made, high end, casual shoes. Many brands are already adapting: chelsea and chukka boots have become ubiquitious, classic dress shoes in suede (instead of polished calf) have become a smart and stylish casual option, brighter (and those casual) colours are becoming more common, and more mid-range and high end brands are adding high quality sneakers to their lineup.
In my opinion, the online sellers are the main factor. There is an increase of 30% in online shoes selling and is emerging day by day.
Maybe people just do not have that much money to spend on extras such as new shoes? at least here in Germany, salaries have stagnated, while housing and healthcare and energy prices keep going up.
All you guys are making it so that people who simply need comfortable shoes because of foot problems (like me) can’t even find shoes! I need shoes like NewBalance 574 used to be, but in a XW size. In size 7. Is that too much to ask? Frankly, I’m best off dead than living in a world which has become so filled with snobs, that its somewhat akin to imposing Spanish boots of the 15th century.
Just take a look at all the people posting reviews on Amazon. They’re full of despair about how NewBalance, Saucony, Asic, Brooks, etc. have let shoe quality nosedive. I myself am full of despair at how so many Far-Eastern producers diabolically design such poor-quality uncomfortable shoes, with humps in all the wrong places (which dig into sensitive arches, such as Hoka, NB-FreshFoam, Saucony, Skechers), along with imposing slippage in the ankle-area (instead of confining width to the toebox area. The latter SHOULD be wide to allow wiggle room).
You have NO idea how much you all take for granted, and how incompassionate your comments read to someone with my painful feet! For example, to quote one of you who stated “brands stuck in the past”. Speak for yourself! OK?
Thanks for sharing your opinions