There is less waste from unsold stock

Initially, I wanted to avoid spending a lot of money on stock – especially when I couldn’t be certain which styles would sell, how many sizes to buy in each design and which fit would be the most popular. I was getting to know what my customers liked so there was a lot of trial and error. As Low Heels grew, I began to see the environmental appeal of using a made-to-order business model permanently. By making only what’s going to be sold, we can reduce overproduction, eradicating surplus stock which then goes to landfill because we don’t ‘hold’ stock.

When Covid-19 hit last month, many retailers were left worrying about how to shift all the units of Spring/Summer stock they had pre-bought – the demand for it had vanished. Who is going to buy Summer sandals when they’re quarantined indoors?! But, because at Low Heels I had already taken the decision to move towards a made-to-order business model, we don’t have any stock that needs to be shifted because everything is made on-demand. Our shoes are all handmade in my home country of Poland. Although it is not as well-known for shoemaking as Italy or Spain, we do actually have a very well-established shoe industry! I have built a great relationship with a very experienced, professional team, that has been making shoes for over 30 years, and they are experts in creating sustainable made-to-order footwear styles.

We can get creative with waste materials, so that everything is used.

According to sustainable business strategy experts, Quantis, shoes are responsible for one-fifth of the environmental impact generated by the apparel industry, with leather being a major source of carbon emission. It’s extremely important to use this sort of material wisely, so we have been getting creative with left-over materials and trims from our leather shoes. For example, we repurposed surplus pieces of metallic snakeskin leather from our Goldie boots to create a toecap and little bow on a pair of kitten heel pumps. It gives them so much more character! Having contrast fabric on the toe of low heeled shoes also helps to make larger feet appear smaller. It’s a win-win situation, don’t you think?

We can offer more choice and a ‘perfect fit’ service
Made-to-order allows us to offer a wider choice of styles (something severely lacking for those of us with large feet!) and consequently give our customers an opportunity to have something unique made for them – both in style and fit. It is harder to coordinate than a pre-bought sales strategy, but it means we can offer more options on our virtual shelves and test out which designs are most popular. Then I can design future collections to include even more styles based on what our customers love the most. Made to order means we can also offer bespoke fit, which makes us unique amongst other companies selling shoes for larger feet.

It helps me really get to know our customers

Our sustainable “made-for-me” production model also allows personalisation, which starts a conversation with our customers. If you’ve seen a pair you love, we are sometimes able to modify the colour, fabric and heel height for you – we offer a bespoke service if you contact us with your request. This means I can have more conversations with our customers, getting to really understand them. When they receive their shoes, they are (measuring-dependent!) a perfect fit for their feet and their style. In turn, this limits the number of returns we are left with, so less return stock ends up in landfill.

Made-for-me options offer something totally unique to every customer

As consumers, we have become used to having things almost instantly delivered to us with the click of a checkout button. While the instant gratification of next-day delivery is great, having something made bespoke to our own requirements is rewarding in a different way, because it’s totally unique.

Although it takes longer for customers to receive an order, made-for-me production is trending, and is a growing area in the retail industry. In the words of NPD chief retail analyst Marshal Cohen, “Fashion is no longer about looking like one of a million, but one in a million.”