I have always had a thing about correctly fitting shoes so when my local branch of Jones the Bootmaker announced that they were closing their children’s department, I wasn’t happy. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we hadn’t already lost national footwear chain Brantano and an independent shoe shop. I felt this left a gap in the local market.
I decided to look for ways that parents could influence shoe retailers to open a children’s shoe shop or department in the Worthing area and have ended up compiling a questionnaire. My worlds have collided: I’m doing business analysis to address a concern that I have as a parent, and I’m writing about it on my blog. It’s not even the first time I’ve written about a gap in the market!My family have bought children’s shoes from Jones for at least two generations. I can remember going there as a child and riding on “Dapple” the rocking horse. I had exceptionally narrow feet and had to have Start-rite shoes because they came up narrow at the heel. “Dapple” is long gone and his department is about to join him.
Unlike me, Munchkin has really wide feet and a high instep. This also makes her a prime candidate for Start-rite shoes, though she can get away with wearing other brands including Clarks.
The only remaining shoe fitter in town will be the Clarks shop, which is fine if they have what you’re looking for, your child’s feet are the right shape for Clarks shoes, and you’re able to do stairs. My husband has limited mobility and avoids stairs when possible so this doesn’t suit him. Believe or not, this isn’t an excuse, he quite likes going shopping with Munchkin.
I decided to post on my local parents’ Facebook group. I wanted to find ways to lobby shoe retailers to open a children’s shoe shop or department in Worthing and I was looking for ways to take this forward. The post got so many likes and comments, that I decided to share it to Worthing Mums Facebook page to see if I could generate more opinions.Claire, who owns Worthing children’s store, Harmony at Home, commented to say that she was considering expanding her range to include fitted children’s shoes but had been nervous about doing anything in case there wasn’t a market for it.
We agreed that I would put together a market research questionnaire that she could make use of. If she decided not to take the idea forward, I would send survey results to existing independent shoe retailers to see if they could be persuaded to open a Worthing store. So far there have been over 100 responses, all from people saying that they would make use of a local children’s shoe shop.
We came to the conclusion that in order to succeed, a children’s shoe shop/department needed to:
- Advertise lots – apparently there used to be a children’s shoe shop in Worthing but most people have never heard of it.
- Not be in the vicinity of another shop with similar stock.
- Not try to compete with Clarks – much as I would like to buy Clarks shoes in the same shop as Start-rite and other brands, the majority of successful children’s shoe shops don’t stock this brand.
- It can help to have another aspect to your business since there is a view that children’s shoes don’t make much money. In Claire’s case, that other aspect would be her core business of children’s clothing and toys. Many shoe retailers feel that it’s adults’ shoes that make them money, though it can’t be that cut and dried since there are retailers that only sell children’s shoes.
That’s enough about shoes for one blog, but it won’t be the last you hear from me about gaps in markets, since I’ve written the children’s story that I alluded to in A Gap in the Market.