My Life with The Left Foot Shoes - Episode One; Introduction and Disappointment.
Time will show whether this is my first and last blog story about fashion but let’s give a try. This story is about shoes. Yes, I know. Never thought I am finding myself writing such a story but as there are some new business models involved I can feel this acceptable, sort of at least.
Quick background overview for everyone not familiar with the Finnish market; yes Finland - that strange/trendy place far north between the everyone-knows-Sweden and what-the-heck’s-happening-Russia. Finland has changed a lot (!) but there are few cultural issues waiting to reach the more western civilized life-style level in the next decades or so and men shoes are definitely one of those. It’s hard or even impossible to find any high-quality shoes in the whole country and that’s why so many businessmen buy their shoes abroad in places like London for example, including me.
This fall it happened; I needed couple of pair of new shoes and didn’t have time to fly over to London. So started to browse the domestic market again, knowing the unbalanced status of the demand vs. supply desperately well. And after two cities and few shops the reality check was done again. It won’t work.
Sunday afternoon, already mentally ready to book flights to London, I finally walked into the shop-in-shop store of the Finnish tailor made shoe brand Left Foot at the Stockmann’s department store. Honestly, after years of consideration and passing their flagship store in Helsinki – where I have actually never seen any clients inside, hope there are some – it was time to give them a try!
Shopping for Left Foot, eventually.
Okay, Finns lost their handicraft traditions probably few decades ago, although it is slowly coming back. But Finns did change the country and partly the whole world with mobile phones and IT so it’s obvious that making a tailor made shoes in Finland needs to be linked with new technology and that’s what it is at the Left Foot Store. Customers put funny-looking socks on and stand on a 3D scanner scanning the shape of their feet, later used as kind of a digital mold for your shoes. Not really as touchy and classic as wooden mold made on Jermyn Street in London but sure kind of modern and new millennium approach. Yes, an acceptable change and an interesting act of development, I might say.
Your feet scanned, you pick-up your favorite model, leather, color and pay your bill and your shoes will be delivered in 3-4 weeks. And next time you can do your purchase fully online on their website. Sound like too good to be true, doesn’t it? Time will show, I was thinking.
They are here! My new three pairs of shoes. Yes, you see only half of them.
Okay, that was the Introduction Phase and now comes the Disappointment Phase. Exactly the same week when I received my new three pairs of good-looking and pretty well fitted shows, I received a kind email from The Left Foot Co saying they are closing their shop in Turku, southwestern city where despite all the winds against me I still try to keep my home. Closing the shop and even in 2 weeks from the email? What the heck, I just started to use them?!? I am feeling this really will be a quick romance, not a good start for a long-time relationship I intend to look for at least.
Shoes look good, feel pretty good, branded nicely through show boxes to membership card, signed with your name and membership number (why is it actually inside the right shoe only, might guess for left one, right?), high-quality Allen Edmonds shoe trees inside, minor changes should be done to make them perfectly fitted but they are ok in good sense. But closing down the shop close to me really puts dark clouds on My Sky of Shoes.
Now I can recognize my own shoe. The right one at least. But should it be the left one?
Too Good to be True, Part #1, without knowing whether there ever will be any more lessons; as long as you cannot touch the leather, cannot feel the quality with you on fingertips, online store cannot replace a physical one. That’s why you eventually need the windows by the streets. Closing up a store enabling that is like saying to your customer, even rather newcomers, that we are not serving you anymore and you need to trust the screen front of you. Screen showing different colors at every office and home around the world; something you can’t even control. If you are happy with that, you’re all fine. In some businesses fully online business model is nowadays a must but tailor made shoes are not flight tickets, sorry to say.
Without knowing the business strategy their left feet are following, I would highly argue against closing down any shop-in-shops they have, even without any local desire here. Actually, I think they should expand small shops through the whole Scandinavian or even European market and bring their potential clients a chance to touch & feel the shoes. And even manufacture somea ready to wear shoes people without the sense of waiting could buy. That would be the secret to adopt the traditional made to measure shoe business and mix that with a high-tech scanning world. That would deliver a difference, that famous reason to buy, desire to feel the story. Otherwise it will be just another quick romance.
Got my shoes and I am ready to walk. Shall my feet accept these modern intruders? Will the shoes last the heavy steps and corners of a quick businessman? Time will tell. Episode 2 is published in couple of weeks, I promise. With some heavy testing results.
Until then, I cheers for new innovations brought into traditional business! And cheers for anyone looking for good shoes! My glass of full-body red wine is waiting. Cheers!