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How are you finding the footwear market currently? The footwear market has been difficult since 2007. However, Ellie Dickins Shoes continues to evolve, and is always looking for new ways to increase business by attracting new customers. We have broadened our range of width fittings up to an 8E, as we have seen an increase in demand of wider feet, and those needing to wear orthotics. With the average age increasing, and an older generation of feet, along with a taller and heavier population, high street footwear does not cater for the needs of these customers. Fit, comfort and style is key in footwear as well as retaining customers and generating new ones. I’m finding lace-ups / trainers are selling well. They’re the best for fit and

comfort. All of our lace-ups have arch support, and many have extra insoles for additional comfort, as well as flexible soles. Our court shoes always sell, along with our Italian pumps. The sales of sandals have been poor this season which is really down to the cold, wet spring and not much summer warmth. Our best selling brands are Ara, Semler and Moda di Fausto, as they cover the narrower to mid width fitting, in the greatest size ranges. However, if a style by any manufacturer is poorly made, or does not fit well then I will always return it to the manufacturer concerned, as it not fit for the purpose for which it was ordered.

How important is shoe fitting to your business? Are you or any of your staff members of the Society Of Shoe Fitters? Shoe fitting is key in our business. All staff are fully qualified shoe fitters, and I have been president of the Society of Shoe Fitters twice, as well as being made a fellow in February this year. Poorly fitting footwear can cause irreversible damage to feet in just 3 days. Footwear that is well made, and gives the foot support doesn’t have to be frumpy in the slightest. That’s what makes us different. We have fashionable styles suitable for all sizes and types of feet. Our knowledge of our stock ensures we can offer the best fitting style for the customers’ needs as well as offering alternatives based on information we have and looking closely at the foot. Not all shoes suit all feet.

What’s selling well? Any particular trends? Which are your best selling footwear brands – and why? Ellie Dickins shoes mainly sells shoes. We also sell toe protection, as well as fitting, cleaning and protection accessories for all types of footwear. We offer a waterproofing service for all footwear. We stock socks, handbags and jewellery.

Does your shop sell other items besides footwear, bags, gloves, tights, socks, below the ankle products? We implemented an EPOS system 5 years ago, when we updated our website to make it fully transactional. The EPOS is directly linked to our website so any sales or stock changes are immediately updated on our site. Before EPOS I relied on my memory of the stock, which I still do today however it is a good backup, and the reporting systems I use are imperative when on a buying trip. I can also monitor which suppliers are working best for me, along with stock movement and sales. Having EPOS is great, however we do rely on it. When we have

internet or telephone issues, it does make you appreciate how much it is relied upon. Our supplier has an excellent service and back-up team so we’re never off-line.

Any tips on stock offers, novel ideas for clearing lines or advice for independent shoe retailers who might be feeling the pinch? I don’t like to discount my stock as I think it cheapens the product and all that we do. Some customers only want to buy shoes in sale, yet they expect the same service. We do not charge for our expertise, yet the mindset of a lot of people is that they want it cheap and with all the trimmings. We use our CRM to notify people if we have odd sizes, and offers. I would offer that to compete against the chain stores, independent retailers need to work on their USP and differentiate themselves from the pack. Don’t be afraid of a higher price point. You’re better than the high street. The right customers will appreciate what service and expertise you can offer.

What is your favourite men’s footwear brand/manufacturer – ditto ladies/children’s brand – and why? I mainly retail ladies’ footwear, with some wider fitting, and larger sized (50) men’s shoes. I don’t have a favourite, however my Italian suppliers fit my feet well, as they are narrower. Also my German suppliers offer the most comfortable shoes for my shape of foot. If I had to name a favourite it would be Moda di Fausto and Semler for Ladies, and Valleverde and Steptronic for men’s.

How do you select your products – which criteria do you use / what are your customers looking for? I select my stock when I visit international shoe fairs.

I firstly look to see

what’s trending at the high end, both colour and shape. I also look at what’s coming through over the next 1-4 years. This gives me a good insight in to what the UK market is likely to be wanting. However, I have found that European fashion takes a long time to reach the UK market, it must be that piece of water slowing up the style gurus! I will then have a good look round to see what my suppliers are offering and the styles that others are promoting. This gives me a great insight as to what’s going to be around. Listening to customers’ requirements is key – heel height, colour, sizes. I have to be mindful of their requirements not just shoes that I would wear.

Which footwear/fashion shows do you attend, how do you rate them? I attend both GDS and Micam, as well as Moda and sometimes the London Shoe Show Fair. I find the European fairs have, on a whole, a much better quality of footwear than what the UK fairs have to offer. Also both UK and International shoe fairs are an important place to network, both myself and the Ellie Dickins Shoes business.

Do you have a favourite footwear agent you can tell us about? I have many footwear agents, representing their companies, which I have known for a long time. These include Peter Ashton from Mephisto, Andrew King from Semler and Justin Morgan at Ara. However, my favourite agent has to be Phillip Joslin who is an independent. I have known Phillip for almost 20 years. He helped me when I was sourcing stock for the larger sizes, and has seen the business through both the good as well as the bad times. He is great fun, a good support and his patience and diligence in resolving supplier and delivery issues has been second to none.

Have you always had a passion for footwear? How many pairs of shoes do you own? Do you have a favourite pair? I have had a passion for footwear from a young age – the passions being frustration and hatred in not being able to wear, and find fashionable shoes in my size and fitting. Now I love the shoes I wear and I have a choice in what I can have. I have a favourite pair of Italian pink pumps, as well as a pair of Semler lace-ups which are always comfortable no matter what my feet have been subjected to.

Any famous customers? I have had a number of famous customers over the time, including Christine Hamilton, Lady Rix and Lady Graham Moon. We have customers from all walks of life, and we treat them all the same and give them all the service and expertise they have come to expect from Ellie Dickins Shoes. We don’t judge as new faces can have a very important title.

And, the next step? Any plans for the future, new lines, retail systems/new technology, etc.? Ellie Dickins Shoes will continue diversifying and evolving to meet the demands of its customers and to educate the general public in the importance of quality footwear and fit.

Ellie Dickins

Ellie Dickins Shoes, Tel: 01488686480 SEPTEMBER 2016 • FOOTWEAR TODAY • 29

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