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SOSF NEWS Update from Laura West, Secretary, Society of Shoe Fitters


The Society is currently in its 57th year and I have been privileged to administer it for 27 years. Over this time, I have seen many changes in retail and disappointingly several Phillip Greens in manufacturing - chasing profit for their own greed without any social welfare conscience. A short term rather than long term perspective in business is never a healthy outlook, not illegal but certainly immoral. My hat goes off to all SSF members and our


Associates for keeping standards high and maintaining their membership in these difficult times. Our network has grown steadily and many shops now support one another through SSF contact. Our organisation primarily champions professional shoe fitting, but there is so much more to what we are trying to achieve i.e. improve standards within the industry and help increase NHS budgets. The face of retail has certainly grown uglier


rather than prettier thanks primarily to supermarkets and fashion chains offering ridiculously priced goods. There is a difference between ‘value’ and ‘cheap’ but the word value has become corrupted to mean the same thing. Shoes are cheaper now than they were 25-30 years ago.


service and knowledge give added value, reassurance and purchase satisfaction then they will have a loyal clientele. A shop may say please and thank you, may even use a gauge when pushed to do so; but so few really understand the process and how imparting a greater knowledge and achieving a comfortable fit will be the best way of impressing and retaining consumers. Our mantra has always been ‘sell shoes that won’t come back, to customers who will!’ Thankfully we are finding the public are asking


more and more for shops with a professional fitting service, particularly for adult footwear. They visit a chiropodist/podiatrist (don’t think twice about the £30-£50 bill), who then kindly direct their clients to us.


Retail is exhausting, creative, great fun and rewarding, but when you are given little respect from the public and your suppliers are not helping much, the gambit of emotions is not always so rosy. Take heart, unfair competition applies to very few companies (i.e. going to Sale before the end of season, charging less to consumers, giving consumers priority over stock, or reducing the importance of trading partners etc.) Bad practice is unhelpful and simply closes another door for good with far-reaching implications for our industry. So as we began, well done to our members and


Associates. Your annual contribution has to go a long way to help so many. When someone applies for our Footwear & Fitting Course they don’t realise that even after training we go on assisting with all sorts of enquiries. The SSF can network, advise, provide promotional opportunities, or on a really bad day just lend a friendly ear when needed. We always have a new project moving us


If a parent sees three back-to-school


polo shirts in a supermarket at £3.50 rather than one quality branded one that will wash well, look good and last five times longer, they will opt for the additional shirts – but at the same time buy the rest of their school-wear in the same place with the perception of safety and ‘value’. The fact is the items will not look good for long and unlikely to last the term – in addition to organic concerns regarding labour conditions and environmental issues (landfill and transportation) associated with “cheap”. It should prick our social conscience but is rarely considered. Polo shirts do not need fitting and cannot damage your overall health – shoes do! It is easy to ridicule what we don’t understand


and the vast majority choose to ignore fitting even though it should apply to all footwear. Far too many learn on the job, but if you are not taught correctly then it’s the blind leading the blind. Golf professionals often say ‘learning the right way to play from the start eliminates bad habits and can be the difference between a good thrasher and a professional golfer’; same applies to shoe fitting.


forward. Our first Conference fast approaches in league with the Healthy Footwear Guide at Northampton University. It is by ticket only, includes refreshments and these can be obtained from the following link https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/


fit-not-frumpy-how-shoe-fitting-can-benefit- everyone-tickets-25259811777 Once again this is a networking situation and we hope to see people from throughout the footwear trade, as well as health professionals. We are still debating the benefits of Charitable


We need more retail staff who are selling adult footwear to qualify and be prepared to measure and fit.


If you sell shoes in half sizes and width


fittings, comfort brands aimed at the mature foot, specialist shoes, or simply want to prevent so many from walking in and out without buying, then do make contact for us to educate you and your team. Our members in this market are definitely benefitting from their membership. Health professionals are increasingly retailing


It makes sense for an independent


shop to have fitting as its USP (unique selling point) otherwise they are no different to any other shop selling shoes. An independent will always be perceived as being more expensive because of the quality brands offered, but if their


footwear and training with us too, as they can see a huge gap in the market. Small businesses are still the life-blood of


most good manufacturers and the majority of suppliers are doing everything they can to assist their trading partners (at least if you get one small bad egg, the rest of the box will still make a decent omelette!).


Status and Social Enterprise (if you have experience of either and can shed light on the gains and pitfalls, we would be grateful for your guidance). We will also be discussing the probability of


returning to Parliament later in 2017. The door is open to us; we simply need a clear message – but which one to choose? Why not let us know what you think? Your suggestions to improve trading in the UK perhaps? George Freeman MP has been moved on from Life Sciences to Policy Minister, but we shall be writing to his colleague who is also a very understanding and pleasant person and Mr. Freeman’s office will still guide us appropriately. This time we shall sell tickets to the event, giving everyone the opportunity to enter these hallowed halls (SSF members first of course!). Keep up the good work and don’t forget you


are assured of a warm welcome to the SSF. Laura West – Secretary


secretary@shoefitters-uk.org


More information about Qualified Shoe Fitters, Associate Membership, Courses, Independent Retailers and National Shoe Fitting Weekgo online: www.shoefitters-uk.org


10 • FOOTWEAR TODAY • SEPTEMBER 2016 www.footweartoday.co.uk


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