Finding shoes bigger than an eight on the British High street is fast becoming more than difficult, it’s becoming impossible. A former shoe haven where almost all shoes where made to a size nine is Next PLC.
I have never struggled with Next for anything that a tall girl might need. Whether it was tops, dresses, trousers and shoes they catered to us and catered to us well. Even this summer there were size nine shoes available, although not all too supportive they sold out quickly and yet . . . this Autumn (Fall) finds Next supplying seven of the most un-innovative boot options in the entire world.
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved Next for a long time and have worked for the company alongside two other family members so to find that this season their buyers have shut the door on those of us with bigger feet has caused more than a stubbed toe’s worth of disappointment. The Tall range seems to have only expanded so to not also make shoes available seems like an odd move?
They are not however, the only ones. Fellow high street brands including Clarks have also lessoned the amount of options available in bigger shoe sizes. Thankfully in the case of Clarks this brand has tried to rectify the problem. Having found vast amounts of customers taking advantage of the entirely free to store service over the past year they have now retracted this offer (meaning you pay entirely up front for shoe orders). The reason for this was that it had left stores over loaded with shoes that they can’t sell which then made them unavailable online (where customers would find them). As can be seen from their most recent sale however, there still appears to be a severe lack of each product available in each of these larger sizes.
Other brands dedicated to the tall demographic such as Long Tall Sally have also tried picking up the slack with their own extensive range as well as carrying other reputable brands larger lines. None of this however, rectifies the fact that there seems to now be far too few products for far too many feet. It seems like a bad move on the part of the high street to not be capitalising on what can clearly be seen as a ‘growing market’.
After all, if we are growing taller, our bodies getting bigger then it stands to reason that our feet will too. I rarely don’t find size nines sold out when I do find them so why are buyers not thinking about the larger footed lady?
The problem with ‘buyers’
Now I hate to go on about Next because I honestly love their products and I don’t intend to stop buying from them, but this hasn’t been the first time that their buyers have gotten the seasons fit so incredibly wrong. Only last year I was commending the manager in Next, Victoria for the far improved fit of their trousers and chinos following a disastrous year of incredibly snug waist sizing with all too often far too much material on the hips, promoting the question, is my body shape so strange? (It isn’t. Fellow Apples unite!)
In fact, when I mentioned the lack of shoe choices for size nines Next said that they would inform their buyers. It makes me wonder however, who their buyers are. Are we all so average that for size nine feet there are only 4 options needed? Worst still, at the next lowest sizing there are 139 options for those with feet, size three and a half. If I have my maths right that’s an increase of 3375%. Meaning that if you have petite size 3 ½ you are 3000% more likely to buy a great pair of shoes.
How did anyone think that that makes sense or would please their taller demographic?
Worst still is how can we and buyers make predictions for what consumers actually want and need. Especially in the case of a size requirement. This last summer I didn’t buy one pair of sandals. Not because I didn’t need any but because the choices out there were either so horrendous I couldn’t bring myself to pay the price tag or they were uncomfortable or even better, sold out.
Now that would leave most buyers with an obvious solution to the season ahead. No one bought anything? There is no need for it. However, what if there is a need but no one bought them because what you all offered us were odd looking, flat foot making concoctions that we didn’t want?
A lot of the time tall ranges falter because the ranges themselves are often misguided. There has been a time where I have lamented the fact that there are huge petite ranges and no tall counterpart whatsoever but in actual fact petite ranges often get more creative and interesting items. They get colour and alternative shapes, whilst tall women repeatedly get offered only basics, such as jeans, white and black T shirts and trousers.
Why do tall women only want black? Why do women with big feet only want simplistic shoes reminiscent of secondary (high) school? The Answer? We don’t. So we don’t buy it, you think tall people don’t exist and the circle continues.
Its no wonder that buyers are buying poorly fitting garments and ignoring big feet. It couldn’t possibly be that their sartorial choices have been, on occasion abysmal and tired. What I actually wonder is how can our process of feedback in stores survive in a digital age?
If you buy shoes from your local store and they know you well and control the buying process then you are more likely to find shoes suitable to your tastes. This is because the shop owner grows to know their own market and individual customers. With national companies and a huge amount of customers only buying products online that feedback is severely limited, either by character restrictions or just a lack of space and time to offer feedback and it thereby, limits our ability to control what stores offer us.
But then the big question remains, “Where does that leave us?”
I only wish that I might have an answer for all of you like me struggling with the new seasons lack of options. On one hand I luckily picked up Clarks Classic’s desert boot in the most stunning of orange suedes this past week. Although it might not see me through the rain and snow for those cold days lit up with sunshine, golden leaves and pumpkin spiced everything’s however, I am one happily booted customer. However, on the other I’m still stuck with outdated feedback policy’s and a high street that might actually struggle to really gauge their customers needs.
We have all become so seemingly advanced in our pursuit of a modern, technological world but in essence are we really overlooking the fundamental needs of our customers by not going to the individual(s)? Maybe its my family’s roots in Bricks and Mortar business which makes me want to go back to a time where a personal service for the real people in your surrounding area was a given, not a privilege but I can’t help but think that it was a better time for both retail and customer service. Now its in the hands of the retailers to redesign their currently poor substitute for actually talking to their customers individually and find a way to better buy for a nations worth of shoppers desperately searching for something to fit and make them feel good again, because goodness, don’t we all want to feel good again?
While I keep a keen eye peeled for a low waterproof ankle boot, stores still realising the benefits of stocking size nine includes, New Look (They even have a well-made and priced, leather and suede range). Online we have Long Tall Sally (now available in the US!) and they stock other reputable brands including, Hush puppies for those with problematic tootsies, Blowfish and Nine West to name a few as well as lesser known Barefoot Tess (my leopard print slip ons from last year are from here). Also never discount Office, Zalando and ASOS (they also offer 9.5 at the moment!) online for a larger selection of what’s out there. Clarks for great quality, classic pieces and also strangely George at Asda do great cheap one season shoes and boots that are also perfect for those in school/college or those who have kids struggling to find larger shoes. Large stores where you can try on a range of shoes also includes Shoe Zone (cheap shoes abundant) and Brantano. Meanwhile for fancier hipster shoes, Tom’s offer some uber comfy options which are also helping sole children in third world countries. An off the beaten track option is Scholls (the insoles company) who also offer the odd larger sizes with the benefit of great supportive soles.
For American, Australian & other European readers please update me via the comments and twitter (@JessicaabigailL) so I can keep an up dated list here of affordable companies offering great shoes and boots at great prices.
And if you know more than me please tell me, “Where did all the big shoes go?”