Shoe repair isn’t a load of cobblers in a recession

Right, so, we have a recession in full swing (which the US admits has actually been in full swing for a year now), Christmas spending is down, retailers are panicking and even the motor industry, which is one of the most powerful in the world, is in line for a bailout. Is there any good news? Yes there is, for some industries at any rate. Cobblers and shoe repair shops are thriving in the economic downturn, as people look to conserve what they already have.

Dan Forster, of the Cobbler Shop in Highland, Northwest Indiana says that if the economy keeps getting worse, his business will pick up even more than it has done recently. Although Forster has seen a rise in the repair of all types of shoes, he says that the biggest increase has been in work boots, which he attributes to spiralling costs.

Gino Mina, who owns Hakky Shoe Repair in Indianapolis, views shoe repair as a somewhat altruistic calling, as he says that shoe repair not only helps save people money, but it also contributes towards saving the environment (shoes are recycled) and boosts small local businesses.

And while Forster says that cobblers have always done well in economic downturns, Thomas Buck, owner of Buck’s Shoes in Valparaiso, attributes the sudden growth in business to the fact that cobbling shoes is a dying craft. Buck believes that many cobblers are of an older generation and have reached retirement age, and they’re not being replaced when they do exit the business, which results in less competition and more business for those that remain.

Ryan Embry, a third generation cobbler who manages the family business, Trio Shoe Service in Buckhead, Atlanta has noticed an increase in the number of designer shoes being brought in for repairs. The Trio Shoe Service has built a successful business repairing Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks for Atlanta’s wealthy, but Embry has noticed an increase in designer repairs since the onset of the recession. He attributes this to the fact that even the wealthy are having second thoughts about spending money on surplus items when they can save by repairing what they own. It seems that it’s time $2000 shoes earned their keep.

The Shoe Service Institute of America (and why wouldn’t there be one?) has published a bunch of interesting stats on shoe repairs. For instance, did you know that shoe repair has risen by 20% in the US and is now at 45% or that New York and Chicago, which are traditionally walking intensive cities, have the most shoe repairs? The average number of shoe repairs a shop does per week is about 200 pairs. Fascinating, isn’t it?


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