Apr 24, 2007

It's almost impossible to find a cobbler these days

As this article makes clear.
For every repair shop that opens, two or three are closing their doors, but the rate of attrition appears to be slowing, said Jim McFarland, who serves on the board of SSIA, an industry trade group staffed by volunteers.

"By 2020, unless we see a radical change, there will be around 5,000 or 6,000 shops," said Mr. McFarland, who operates a shop in Lakeland, Fla.

The cause of the decline is plain to see.

Last year's average retail price of a dress shoe — men's, women's and children's — was $32.59, according to the NPD Group Inc., a market research company in Port Washington, N.Y. Dress casual shoes were even cheaper, averaging $30.46 a pair.

That's considerably less than the $40 to $45 that most shops charge to put on a set of half soles and heels.

Also, dressier shoes make up a dwindling percentage of footwear sales. Last year, dress and dress casual shoe sales were $10.7 billion, roughly half of what Americans paid for sneakers and other athletic footwear.

Many of today's consumers have no familiarity with repair shops and some are unaware that old shoes can be made as good as new, Mr. McFarland said. He cited estimates that only 10 percent of Americans have their shoes repaired.
That last paragraph is spot on. When I moved here, I inquired about shoe repair shops only to be treated with vacant stares. Finally someone said they thought there was one at the local excuse for a mall and I repaired there with a gorgeous pair of Richard Tyler slingbacks with a stilleto heel--black kid on the vamp, black patent-covered heel--that needed new caps on the heels. Alas, the cobbler was no more. Disconsolate, my shoes and I entered the Gap and tried on some jeans in an effort to cheer up. On the way to the parking lot, I discovered that I had left my shoes behind. I immediately retraced my steps, but, alas, the shoes were gone. Damn, I miss those shoes.

The whole sorry episode came back to me this weekend when I began my semi-annual inventory of shoes and discovered all manner of shoes that needed repair.

I live in a cultural wasteland.

Via The Manolo.

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