You would think that with all of the different shoe companies in business that women could find one brand that fit their foot. But finding that company is often as difficult as that proverbial needle in a haystack.
Over 60% of women in the USA are unable to find their size in the average shoe store. Problem is, fewer
Barbara Thornton, AKA The Shoe Lady, a Harvard Business School graduate with over 15 years in the footwear industry and owner of AskTheShoeLady.Com has some answers as to why it's so hard for women to find shoes that fit:
- Customers in general do not understand the width system in shoe sizing, or even that there are options other than medium. So when they need a different width, they don't ask for it. Women who need a size 8 extra wide will end up purchasing a 10 medium.
- Shoe companies bellyache about making additional lasts, the frame shoes are made on, beyond the basic sizes between 5 and 10. So they just don't make the extra lasts. Making just six lasts to create 10,000 shoes is much more cost effective, in their eyes, than making 85 lasts for 10,000 shoes.
- The shoe companies are cheap. Even if they did have the lasts to make different sizes, they would have to pay their workers additional time to switch out the lasts. The companies believe this switching out of lasts is distracting for the factory worker, leaves room for error, and increases production price.
- Shoe companies don't want to push factories to make styles in extra sizes and widths because they don't want to put a strain on their good relationship with the factories.
- Shoe companies believe they will be stuck with unsold merchandise at the end of the season because of all of the different options.
- Shoe companies plan for the current and next year based on the prior year's sales and how much they sold in each size/width. This is a practice they've been doing for a long time.
- Shoe companies don't actually track real size trends in the population, but base their future plans on how many they sold previously. They also haven't factored in the change in women's average shoe size, which has changed from a size 7 in 1990 to size 9 in 2013.
- Shoe companies also don't track the sales lost because of the options they do not have available. Reports are based on sales per style, per color, per heel height, re-orders, and other data. What they do not track is number of shoes sold per width/size, the change over time in that category, and the estimate of sales they lost due to few options.
- Shoe stores base their pre-season ordering on what they believe will draw the customer in, not providing options for the customer. What will look best in the store window? Customers with certain needs will have to try to squeeze into the shoe or not wear it at all.
- Customers don't demand that their shoes fit properly. Many feel that what they see is what they get. Women need to actively demand from shoe companies and stores properly fitting shoes.
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