Covid has hit the business of quality shoes hard, where most have struggled and a few companies has fallen. Now reports from many different areas of the segment states that things are looking a whole lot better now, for many things are back to where things were before Covid, and hopefully the shoe business can soon leave all this behind.
I’ve been doing a couple of articles on how the pandemic has affected the branch of shoes that Shoegazing focus on, classic quality men’s shoes, first this one after the initial spring with Covid and later this one back in January on how the classic shoe industry needed our help when things were the toughest. In the latter one I wrote that the first half of the year of 2021 would be crucial for how many players would pan this out, a sort of transition period over to something more normal. There were some that sadly didn’t make it, but most shoe manufacturers and retailers did manage to get through also this period, and now, it seems they are being rewarded, finally.
Cause what I’ve heard from both retailers, shoe factories, bespoke shoemakers and others in the industry, and experience in the company I work with, Skolyx, is that customers have started to buy dress shoes and other classic shoes to a much larger degree again. During the pandemic, when people didn’t go to the office or visited parties or weddings, the need for new shoes for these occasions obviously became lower. Now, basically since July, black plain cap toe oxfords, patent leather shoes and other dress shoes are suddenly being purchased again, not just loafers, boots and sneakers. For many the sales of shoes are back to where it was before the pandemic, the factories are going at full again, and people in the industry have switched to a much more hopeful tone.
Now, we shouldn’t fool ourself and think that all is over and everything is back to normal. I heard of one factory who had to close down for a full week due to staff being affected with Covid, there are worries of new waves due to the more contagious Delta variant, and there’s also challenges sourcing materials. Even if for example the European makers of welted shoes mainly source materials from Europe, everyone is affected in various ways either direct or at least indirect, by the whopping freight costs and often delayed shippings that we currently see in the world. I have heard numbers like material costs going up around 20% and stuff like that, and it will be interesting to see if the brands and retailers will swallow these costs to keep their position in the still fierce competition we have in our the classic shoe world, or if we will see some price hikes. None of it would really be ideal, less margins for a rather low margin industry isn’t top, and higher prices leading to potentially lower sales also isn’t good. Hopefully customers would understand if prices would increase (the shoe industry certainly isn’t the only one who see these challenges now), and still think it’s worth spending on quality footwear. I sure will. And I’m happy to hear positive sentiments from the industry once again.