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MISFIT


Misfit Expands B


ig goings-on at Misfit Shoes. We have almost doubled the space in the number one shop and we are going to have an in-house chiropodist. Teaming up with a chiropodist is an idea I have been toying with for some years and it has been achieved at last without any great


effort on my part, by pure unadulterated serendipity. It often seems to happen that when I put a great deal of effort into gaining some objective nothing happens so I give up and go on holiday and while I’m away it all comes together. The first bit of luck, for me, if not for him, was the final demise of the shop next door which sold bits and pieces of an ethnic nature, which seemingly no longer produce the profits they used to. Whatever the reason, I arrived one morning to find the shop empty and a landlord’s repossession notice on the door. While I was pondering the pros and cons of expanding the Misfit empire the second bit of luck appeared. An acquaintance happened to mention they went to a chiropodist who worked out of a corner of a local pharmacy and was discontented with the arrangement. I gather that the space was too small and there were personal issues between the lady and the owner of the pharmacy. Years ago I came across a dress shop with a hairdresser’s salon behind it which seemed to work very well. While the ladies were waiting to have their hair done they had every opportunity to be tempted by the garments in the dress shop, and it struck me that the same marriage could be consummated between a foot doctor and a shoe seller. There were two problems: where would I find a chiropodist and where would I put one when I did? I have tried several times to do a deal with a chiropodist along the lines of mutual recommendation and generally working together, but have invariably been rebuffed on professional grounds. I could never quite get my head round this but their argument ran along the lines of “I am a trusted professional, something I would not wish to sully by being connected to a commercial business.” I am quoting the exact words of one gent I approached which seemed to me rather odd as I was told he was in the habit of taking filthy lucre off his patients every time they visited him. The way he pronounced those two words, commercial and business was positively pornographic. However the professional I have done a deal with has turned out to be charming and co-operative. Maybe I have struck lucky or there has been some sort of sea-change in the podiatric world. She thought working out of shoe shop made a lot of sense. I suspect she was very keen to get away from the pharmacist as well. Having her on board tipped the scales about taking the adjacent shop, and as I had guessed, the landlord was only too happy to do a deal. Just at the moment retail properties are something of a drug on the market. So as I stand looking at the builders knocking the wall between the two shops down and hoping they know what they are doing, and wondering if we are insured if they don’t, I reckon it is going to be a good deal all round. It also crossed my mind that I am no longer a standalone shoe retailer, which


10 • FOOTWEAR TODAY • APRIL 2011


makes me wonder if the specialist shoe shop is a concept that has passed its sell-by date. The days when if you wanted to buy a pair of shoes you went to a shoe shop are long gone. Nearly every fashion shop sells shoes, I assume at a profit, and you can get them in all large supermarkets as well as department stores, sports outfitters, even garden centres. For some reason banks, building societies and estate agents have not got in on the act – perhaps they have their own problems. I know we specialist shoe retailers provide a service by selling shoes that fit and are comfortable and durable, and by knowing more about the goods we sell than just what it says on the box and the labels, but I do sometimes wonder if the public really want this service. Could it be that the main thing they want is for their feet to look attractive and are happy to disregard any resulting discomfort? After all no-one walks very far these days; we all drive or go on public transport so what does foot comfort matter? Not true. Last year I did an experiment. I attached a pedometer to my belt and switched it on when I got to the shop and off again when I left it. Guess how far I walked that day without leaving the premises? An unbelievable three miles! As for any damage thoughtlessly bought shoes may cause in later life, who cares? Most customers will worry about that when it happens.


While I was pondering the pros and cons of expanding the Misfit empire the second bit of luck appeared. An acquaintance happened to mention they went to a chiropodist who worked out of a corner of a local pharmacy and was discontented with the arrangement. I gather that the space was too small and there were personal issues between the lady and the owner of the pharmacy.


Another reason why almost anyone can sell shoes is their very cheapness. An average pair costs between fifty to a hundred pounds which means that someone on minimum wage can buy a decent pair after only one day’s work. If he think this is too dear he can go to a cut-price chain on most high streets who will sell him a pair for just over two hours work. Someone on the median wage of £26000, which means half the population, can easily afford to pay over £100. Which makes shoes a throwaway item, something you can buy with little thought. Suits us. We have a steadily increasing trade in people who want comfort and quality, and now we have joined forces with a chiropodist we expect to have, without impinging for one moment on the orthopaedic trade, plenty of customers who bought their shoes from a supermarket twenty years ago and are now wondering why they need to see a chiropodist.


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