As we head towards one year living under the shadow of a pandemic, it becomes increasingly clear that the quality shoe business is one of the production industries that suffers hard. Now, if ever, is the time for all of us who enjoy great shoes to do all we can to support the brands and retailers that we love, and make those purchases that may prove crucial to save jobs or even whole companies. Read about why the coming months and what we do now will be so important.
Counting out a couple of summer months where things were a bit more normal in many areas of the world, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the life for most people the past 10 months. Looking at it from the perspective of what this blog is about, this has meant that people are out at the office or in cities wearing shoes to a much lesser degree than normal, which means that we buy much less shoes than normal, leading to a sometimes massive decrease in sales for retailers and brands, and this in turn shows up in low amount of orders to the factories. To add to this, in many countries stores and factories have been forced to shut down anyway. The economic support from governments varies a lot, some get good support and can use furloughs etc, while others are left to manage things more on their own. And it also varies a lot in what degree of financial stability shoe retailers, manufacturers and bespoke makers entered this era in, and to which degree one had large stock/large backlog of orders, etc.
What’s clear in almost all cases though, is that 2020 was a tough year with a lot of challenges for the classic shoe industry. And it’s been increasingly difficult for many now during autumn and winter when restrictions and lockdowns have been going on for a long time in many places, this after an already challenging year. As it is now, every week I’m reached by new info on struggling shoe brands. Factories that need to let staff go, bespoke shoemakers who need to take loans from the government, and so on. The light at the end of the tunnel is of course the vaccines. The vaccination processes are rolling out to a larger and larger degree, and many hope that already by summer things will be back to a more normal state in large parts of the world.
Important to think about now, is that the toughest challenges for the shoe industry isn’t behind it, they are ahead. Now the retailers and manufacturers enter a transition period, where they need to go from sort of idle to something more regular. The furlough supports are ending, potential lowered rents are returned to standard, other financial support is gradually removed and the companies need to survive on their own. All while retailers need to be able to order stock to have something to sell, and factories need to have orders incoming from their retailers to have shoes to do, and to be able to do these shoes they need to source material and get staff back on the line, and so on. Bespoke makers are in a similar situation, they need to quickly get new orders in and be sure to have all materials needed sourced, so production can get back on track.
In all these stages for all these areas of the shoe world, the actors are dependant on decent liquidity. Money to be able to buy material, pay rents and pay salaries. After this long, tough period, the liquidity is low for many players, both retailers, factories and makers. To get cash, they need new orders. With new orders incoming the wheels of the quality shoe industry can start rolling faster again, and a positive spiral can begin to build up things towards how things were before the pandemic. In the same way but the other way around though, if the industry don’t get a good amount of new orders in, the spiral can go downwards instead, and instead of building back to how things were we could see a scary amount of actors in this industry disappear. I’m sure none of us want that.
Therefore, the coming six months or so, what all of us shoe interested people do can prove crucial. All who have the possibility, do support your favourite shoe store, your favourite brand, your favourite bespoke shoemaker. Don’t wait until autumn when you wish to get that new pair for when you expect to start heading in to the office again, order it this spring instead and perhaps just let it rest on a shelf until it’s really needed. Place that MTO order or bespoke order that you’ve been dreaming of. Don’t just sit around for the next sale – order shoes today at full price. Cause in a worst case scenario, if you don’t, you might never be able to – that store, brand, maker might not even be around in autumn. And if you don’t have the possibility to place orders, maybe you work in a business that also have been hit hard and you lost your job, or similar, well, there’s other ways to support your favourites. Tell your friends about them, highlight them in your social media, give them a good review for your previous pair on Trustpilot, and so on. And spread this article and the message behind it, do it with the hashtag #supportyourfavourites in social media. I’m sure that we are so many that wish for this industry to continue to thrive, that if we all do what we can to help with this, we can do wonders together.