Footwear Industry

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I am a wholesale dealer, please advice me on how I purchase shoes for my shop to sale.

Thank you

Thank you for your interesting question.

It seems to me that you are interested in selling high heel shoes in a "retail" store. Beware that there is NO money to make selling any kind of shoes in a retail store in these days. You will most likely lose all of your money. The chain stores in malls and Internet stores have the market fully saturated.

However, if you are rich and have lots of money to throw away (and I mean that), you may investigate the possibilities yourself by contacting the following "Shoe Manufacturers and Wholesalers" to begin with. Note that you will need at least your letterhead stationery and Employer ID Number to buy at wholesale prices.

Popular Women Shoe Lines with High Heels:

Candie's, Inc.
400 Columbus Ave.
Valhalla, NY 10595

Steve Madden Ltd.
5216 Barnett Ave.
Long Island City, NY 11104

High Heel Shoe Wholesalers:

Tony Shoes
6505 Hollywood Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028

Papikian Enterprises
1754 N Ogden Drive
Las Vegas, Nevada

USA Office for Shoe Manufacturer in China:

C.H. International, USA, Inc.
4180 Wingate Dr
Collegeville, PA 19426

Good luck!

J.J. Leganeur ~ Jan. 2000

Hello There-

You have a wealth of information so I thought I would email you a quick question. I'm hoping you will find the time to help me out. I am interested in starting a shoe store in Chicago but do not have the faintest idea on how to start and where to buy the shoes. Since I live in Chicago there are many shoes stores with designers shoes. But I would like to have a different kind of store. Maybe I could have local Art Institute students design shoes for us or the Museum of Contemporary Art but it sounds like it might be pricey. What do you suggest? PLEASE HELP ME FREE MYSELF FROM MY CORPORATE NIGHTMARE!!!!!

MM - 01 Apr 2002

Shoe Business

Dear Margaret,

You can find information and links on my Shoe Industry and Designer web pages, that should lead you to everything you need to know. The links are at the bottom of my Contents web page.

As an employee, you are guaranteed a salary. As a business owner, there is no guarantee as to what your profit (or loss) will be, no matter how hard you work.

I have absolutely no suggestions for you. However, if I were to start a shoe business in Chicago, I would look into opening a discount designer shoe store within a few blocks of the Palmer House (Hilton Hotel). There is a great mix of people who walk through that area. This store would be different by selling high heels and only high heels.

Alternatively, I would try to find a shoe maker capable of making custom high heel shoes and partner with him. I would try to offer handling everything including advertising, marketing, financing, accounting, etc., while the shoe maker does only physical shoe work. Furthermore, the shop would do double-duty by handling regular shoe repair work as well.

J.J. - April 7, 2002

Hi JJ,

I am Soooo excited to have come across your site. I have been a shoe fanatic since I began to walk. I am very interested in becoming a shoe designer. I have no formal training and I am not really interested in getting a degree in the Arts. However I have sold shoes for Nordstrom. I learned a great deal from my time there. My question relates to the start up cost. I am not interested in working for someone else. How much money does it generally take to open your own shoe company? I am orginally from NYC, so I am in great location. Also, how would you suggest picking a factory to make the product? (In Italy of course)

Nikki - 3 Dec 2002

Dear Nikki,

Education is extremely important. One should always try to get as much education while young and do it on a full-time basis. Although it is possible to continue one's education on a part-time basis later in life, it is usually more difficult to do. Consider that you may have kids later on as well and need to spend time raising them.

The cost of opening up a shoe store, where you sell shoes that you design, varies greatly from about $50,000- to over a millions dollars (US). The big items include:

1) RENT, which varies based on location and size of store. At one extreme, you can try to find a small store in a cheap location in one of the outer boroughs of NYC. At the other extreme, you can find a a good size store in a prime Manhattan location, like Fifth Avenue.

2) FIXTURES, which includes shelves, chairs, counter, window displays, etc.. Costs vary based on new or used, size, quality, etc.. What you had at Nordstrom must of been expensive.

3) SHOE INVENTORY or the number shoes you carry in stock.

There are also numerous other smaller expenses like advertising, business sign, business insurance, utilities (including electricity and telephone/fax), business stationery, etc..

Also, there are some things that one should be sure to do before opening up a shoe business including:

a) Take a tour of the neighborhood where you plan to open up a shop and check out the competition. Be sure that you can match up with them in terms of what you can offer consumers.

b) Get a notebook and work out all of the costs and figure out just how many shoes you need to sell every month to break even and make a profit.

Try to estimate and have enough resources for at least six months to a year. You should not need more because you will know whether you can succeed or fail within that timeframe. Note that most new businesses fail within a year. Also, while it may be possible for you to succeed, the odds are heavily stacked against you.

c) Get more information on "starting a small business" at your local public library. Also, try to get a copy of the monthly magazine Entrepreneur.

Yes, Italy is great place to get your shoes (especially high heels) made with genuine leather. There is nothing good about cheap man-made leather and patent leather (usually man-made) shoes, that mostly come from Asia.


J.J. Leganeur - December 8, 2002

Hi JJ,

Thanks for the speedy reply. I agree with you that education is a must. I plan on taking some classes at F.I.T. but I don't want to get a degree. I will be fininshing up my BS soon and I am sort of tired of school. I don't plan on opening my own shop. I don't want to deal with the stress that comes with being a shop owner, however I want to get my shoes into the small boutiques and a few major department stores. This leads to my other question, how would you go about approaching a retailer such as, Neiman Marcus about selling your product?

Nikki - 8 Dec 2002

Dear Nikki,

Getting small boutiques to sell a few designer shoes is always a possibility, depending on how good the merchandise is and negotiation skills. However, it is not wise to approach major department stores until a business is well established.

Furthermore, it would probably be a waste of time and money to approach the creme-of-the-crop of high-end department stores (or namely, Neiman Marcus). Trying to do business with them would be like trying to win Lotto. If a designer had really great merchandise, such high-end department stores would approach the designer first. Also, there is plenty of competition in the market already.

In general, department stores that purchase designer shoe lines are staffed with highly trained and specialized people. This includes fashion experts, who keep up-to-date by reading current fashion magazines and traveling around the world attending fashion shows (like World Shoe Association Shows in Las Vegas).

So, several (expensive) full page ads in top women's fashion magazines like Bazaar, Elle and Vogue and appearances at a few fashion shows would be helpful. Shows are also good places to exchange business cards. These two ways of advertising are almost prerequisites for doing business with high-end department stores, that carry only goods of fine distinction.

Unless you are a reputable shoe designer, aiming for middle-class department stores may be more reasonable. You can search for their contact information on the Internet or make some telephone calls to find the right people to talk to.

Also, unless you have very cheap "bargain basement" shoes that are made in Asia, it would be fruitless to approach low-end department stores. They usually order directly from Asian manufacturers, regardless of shoe design and what the shoes they are made out of (like man-made leather and plastic), to get the cheapest possible prices.

I assume "BS" means Bachelor of Science and that you are majoring in one of the sciences or Mathematics, perhaps. Good for you.

Unfortunately, there is still a recession or bad economy, which has been in a downward spiral for the past three years. Millions of people have lost their jobs and are still having a tough time finding another one.

Often overlooked are college graduates trying to find their first real jobs. I know someone who graduated Magna Cum Laude last year and was not able to find a job. This is simply a terrible time.

If you plan to live in New York City, trying to get into the fashion industry makes some sense. The fashion industry still is and should always be big in New York City.

However, baby boomers are getting older. This should eventually create a boom for health professions. Often overlooked are some interesting health professions, like podiatry (foot medicine), naturopathy (one of the greatest healing arts that is now legal in Connecticut), acupuncture and chiropractic.

If I was a young and graduating college soon like you in these times, I would probably consider these options:

New York College of Podiatric Medicine (Manhattan, New York)

University of Bridgeport (Bridgeport, Connecticut) - Doctor of Naturopathy

Mercy College (Manhattan, New York) - Acupuncture

New York Chiropractic College (Seneca, New York) - Doctor of Chiropractic

Long Island University (Brooklyn, New York) - Pharmacy

J.J. Leganeur - December 15, 2002


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This page was last edited on December 15, 2002.
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