How Perfectionists See It

The Shoe Market

Footwear Insight, in its quest to get the lowdown on the current state of the retail footwear industry, reached out to some of the best seeking answers. We recently checked in with five 2022 Gold Medal Service Award winning retailers — all of whom had perfect “mystery shopping” scores of ‘100’ or better in our review of the best independent shoe stores in America last year. These retailers stay in top form by measuring the pulse of the industry, staying on top of emerging trends, and working to keep their customers happy with their footwear shopping experience.
   In our “summer check-up” with these retailers, we asked them two questions:

Q1: What can retailers like yourself do to excite footwear customers today given the current macroeconomic backdrop, short of offering a promotional sale?

Q2: What are the specific trends, categories selling well right now, driving the sales environment?

Brothers Mark and Steven Jubelirer

Reyers Shoe Store

Niles, OH

Mark Jubelirer, proprietor

Founded: 1886. Purchased by Jubelirer Family in the 1950s

Gold Medal: Top-scoring “Store of the Year” in 2021.

“There may be nothing more exciting than putting your most exciting product samples in your window, or up front near the entrance. Which is why I take the opportunity to show that Reyers, too, has white cowboy boots. And sparkly gemstone encrusted cowboy boots. In our neck of the woods, we know that for next season, boots and booties will be hot items. Also, quality is remembered long after price is forgotten; so, put your best feed forward — Fashion First.

Clearly, athletic-inspired footwear is all the rage at all price points, across all vendors. Even brands who were never known for this type of footwear are now offering them. Color is how many of them try to differentiate themselves from the main, but everybody has them. So, watch your inventory levels. And of course, booties are like Fords; everybody has them; they’re everywhere. Every vendor copies everybody’s best silhouette from last year. So, watch your prices.

Black may no longer be the new black, but the black of old. Maybe it’s color. (I recall a season long ago when every vendor had equal amounts of product sampled in black and grey and taupe.) … I would be wary of buying absolutely everything in black and shying away from other colors. Color counts. And maybe white, in boots especially.”

Wesley’s Shoes

Chicago, IL

Bruce Wesley, owner

Founded: 1970

Gold Medal: One of seven stores to score 100 or above in 2022.

“We have always enjoyed partnering with our suppliers and featuring their lines during a trunk show event. Back in the day, we used to call it a trunk show. Now, we call it a shoe party…This spring, we had a great turnout for our Birkenstock Shoe Party. We let customers know through social media — Instagram and Facebook — and we also used email blasts. Lastly, we targeted former Birkenstock clients by reaching out to them by personal phone call invitations.

We have used the same formula for decades with many suppliers. It works on getting the customers to focus on one particular line. We also offer gift with purchase (GWP) and Swag items with purchase. It’s the best way to promote a line without using markdowns to drive sales. Let’s face it, you are never going to be cheap enough.

The trends we are still seeing are easy on & off slip-ons, lightweight stretchable uppers for foot problems. And, platforms are still hot, too! ... What’s selling now? Of course, the usual three suspects: On Running, Hoka, and Birkenstock, along with Dansko and Pikilinos.”

The Shoe Market

Greensboro, NC

PJ Calhoun, manager

Founded: 1992

Gold Medal: One of seven stores to score 100 or above in 2022.

“We’ve been engaging in fewer promotional sales post-pandemic and are having the best-selling year in The Shoe Market’s history. We’ve shifted our advertising to more about who we are and what we do rather than accidentally branding ourselves as a discount destination.

Our demographic is a bit older and appreciates the seasoned service, sizes, and selection that we offer. We’re using advertising to remind customers what makes us different from chain retailers and internet stores and are also expanding our advertising radius to include areas up to two hours away. There is not another store like us nearby and we’re finding that people with foot issues and hard-to-fit feet are more than happy to make the drive to find the right shoes for their feet. We’re working on expanding our customer base by selling who we are, what we do, and what makes us unique.

Athletics continue to drive sales for the store. Again, because we focus on stocking sizes and widths to achieve a perfect fit, our customers know we will have the right shoe and size for their foot needs. We’re seeing great success with Euro-comfort footwear and shoes that have a comfort-oriented function with a dressier aesthetic.”

A Proper Fit

Reno, NV

Mike Jones, owner

Founded: 2005

Gold Medal: One of seven stores to score 100 or above in 2022.

“For the working people, work footwear always thrives during difficult times. We’re selling the importance of quality footwear that professionally fit to keep you feeling health and happy at work.

Recovery sandals are a hot item whether it’s after a workout or a long day. It feels good to walk on a cloud and let your feet breathe a bit.”

Julia Beck-Gomez and Adam Beck

Beck’s Shoes

Salinas, CA with 26 locations in Western U.S.

Adam Beck, CEO

Founded: 1919

Gold Medal: Top-scoring “Store of the Year” in 2022.

“Market your value adds (value proposition). Beck’s Shoes measures your feet with a double Brannock. We 3D scan your feet and we custom fit using different fitting aid: tongue pads, heel grips, foam taps, suede halters, pitch pads, etc. (free of charge). We also clean and oil your boots and give you free laces. We call this our boot maintenance program. We also like to tell the consumer that we have 75+ brands and over 1,000 styles to pick from.

New Balance, running, and the health & wellness category continues to be very strong for us. Also, niche brands like Arcopedico and Biza continue to perform very strongly. Sock lines like Merge 4 and Feetures drive a tremendous amount of revenue for us.”

Footwear Insight has been honoring independent retailers with the Gold Medal Service Award for Outstanding Customer Service since 2015. Stores are screened and “mystery shopped.” For more information, visit