Footwear Industry

I 've just read some of the advice that you've given to shoe designers and I am very impressed with the wealth of knowledge that you have about the shoe industry.

My question is a little different. I am interested in opening a small women's shoe boutique that specializes in high end shoes. I was hoping to make my niche for those who have small feet (sizes 5 or 5 1/2) Large feet (size 11and 12 ) and those who desire stylish high end shoes that may be found in widths. I'm wondering how feasible this vision is. Do high end vendors make large sizes and widths? If so who are they and how would I go about contacting them?

Right now, I am only interested in selling these shoes I'm not particularly interested in designing them but I was hoping that you could give me pointers on where to begin.

C.A. (R.F.) - 11 Dec 2002

Dear Cheree,

Specializing in odd sizes is not really an issue of feasibility, but one of courage and risk-taking. I will explain this later. There are two extremely important facts that need to be considered.

First, there is the fact that some shoes are "in-style" and some shoes are "out-of-style". I assume you are talking about women's "fashion wear" shoes. In terms of high heels, I have categorized them into 4 groups: fashion wear, club wear, fetish wear, and tango dancing shoes. (You can find much more information about these on my other web pages.)

Most women's high heel club wear, fetish wear, and tango dancing shoes stay in-style indefinitely. However, women's fashion wear shoes (especially, high heels) often stay in-style for only short periods of time.

Most shoe designers and retailers come out with new styles twice a year for "spring/summer" and "fall/winter". When retailers can not sell these shoes during their initial season, then they usually have to mark down the prices significantly. Sometimes, they auction or liquidate all of the shoes (or sell them for a fraction of what they paid for them). These are the shoes that end up in "discount designer shoe stores", "one-of-a-kind" bargain shoe stores, etc..

Second, there is the fact that "a small market exists for odd sizes". In North America, about 80% of women have feet with shoe sizes ranging from 6 to 9 (US) with medium (B-) width. (Source: The Foot Doctor by Glenn Copeland, D.P.M., Macmillan 1996, page 203)

Most high-end designer shoes are made only for these "80% of women". Most retailers forget about the other "20% of women" because it is too "risky" of a proposition to go after them. The shoes can go out of style faster than these 20% of women buy them.

So, only "courageous" specialty retailers go after these 20% of women. There are already some Internet companies that specialize in this area. has been going after women with large feet and different widths. There is also Soho Shoe Salon (at However, their selection of high heels are all barely 3 inches high (or at the low end in the range of high heel heights). Cinderella of Boston (at has been catering to petite women with small feet for many years.

Perhaps, you can overcome these two facts or obstacles as well. In regards to "in-style", you could stick to classic styles or best-sellers, that stay in-style for longer periods of time. For example, the basic 3 1/2 inch pump in the 1930's looked basically the same as it did in the 1940's, 1950's, 1960's, 1970's, 1980's, 1990's and 2000's.

In regards to the small community of customers, you could try some special marketing techniques. For example, you could host monthly parties, gatherings or get-togethers for "petite women", "tall women", etc..

You must also do some research yourself. Check out what businesses already exists in the area that you want to open up your boutique in (you can use Also, search the Internet yourself using Yahoo! and Google, the two best search engines that I use.

J.J. Leganeur - December 15, 2002

Furthermore, here are some other sources of information for getting started in the high heel shoe business:

Shoe Market



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This page was last edited on December 15, 2002.
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