A Drapers dinner spawned a menswear footwear collaboration
Footwear retailer Soletrader has teamed up with London-based menswear designer Simon Carter to create a premium footwear collection for autumn 16. Drapers caught up with Carter and Derrick Hoyle, buying controller at Soletrader, to find out about the new range
Tell us a bit about the collection
Derrick Hoyle: There are 16 options across seven styles, six colours and two sole types. There is a premium calf leather range of formal loafers and boots and a suede range of more casual styles. All the shoes are leather lined and made in Portugal. Retail prices range from £90 to £120, and they go on sale in Soletrader stores and online in November.
How did the collaboration come about?
Simon Carter: Derrick and I actually met at a Drapers event and hit it off straight away. The collection sprung out of a mutual need. I’ve been doing my own footwear [which is licensed from a company in Singapore] since autumn 14 and it has gone really well, so there is definitely an appetite for a Simon Carter shoe outside of my own stores. I’ve always really liked Soletrader as it’s a good size, it’s a family business and we share values.
DH: Our business is all about moving further upmarket, gaining more premium brands and gaining more control over all our purchasing. One way we can gain more control is signing exclusive deals with our branded partners or doing exclusive collaborations. There is a hole in the market for this type of product and it fits seamlessly into our pricing structure.
How did the design process work?
SC: The design was extraordinarily collaborative. We talked about what works well for me and we discussed with the Soletrader design team where that gap in the market was. I then added details like Simon Carter paisley to the lining inside the shoe and my scooter logo on the sole. It’s important for Derrick to emphasise that he is working with a brand and a good designer, so there is some branding on the outside – more than we would have on our own label, but it’s good to have a point of difference.
How do prices compare to the existing Simon Carter footwear range?
SC: This stops just before we start. We kick off at £150. It’s good in terms of architecture, it’s a great way to take a brand to a wider demographic. I think we will broaden the congregation with the range.
Is it important to have a branded point of difference for Soletrader?
DH: For me, it is a crucial part of our business. It puts control back into what we’re buying. The internet is disrupting the market, so by collaborating we have 100% control over this.
Do you think the industry needs to work harder to create desirable and innovative product?
SC: It is all about having a unique point of difference. If you want to succeed you have to have that. Who is doing well, like the Superdrys of this world, do have a point of difference. We have been able to grow because we have a clear message and a look.
The consumer is more informed now and they can see where retailers have tried to squeeze margins out of their suppliers and spec has been taken out of the product. You might have gotten away with that 10 years, ago but the consumer knows more now so they will notice if the quality has been affected. Trading down is a risky business.
DH: From a consumer’s point of view, it’s always “why do I need this?”, and from a buyer’s point of view it’s the same. If it isn’t compelling, you don’t buy it. You have to create theatre for the consumer to invest.
The consumer is extremely savvy now. Trading down might save you a few quid but, if that damages the customer experience, they will share that very quickly on social media. You can’t beat great product, at great prices, presented to the consumer to give them a real reason to purchase.