How to find a shoe factory
The question I get asked the most by people who want to start a shoe brand is “How do I find a shoe factory?” As a consultant, I usually counter this with further questions. I want to know if you are ready to start looking for shoe factories. Do you have enough information about your consumer, market, pricing and product construction to accurately brief a shoe manufacturer? I am happy to share the details of how to find a shoe factory, when I know your business plans are solid. I want you to make excellent sourcing decisions which are right for your brand.
What do I need to know before I look for a shoe manufacturer?
In order to be clear on which kind of manufacturer you need, and the region you should look to source in; be sure you can answer all of these questions:
Who is my customer?
What drives them? How, when and why do they buy footwear? How will your shoes change their lives?
All of your sourcing, design, pricing, marketing and other business decisions will be based on your customer and what they would want.
How am I going to sell my shoes?
Are you thinking of selling direct to consumer via your own website or physical store/s? If so, would you ever consider selling via the wholesale channel? What if your favourite retailer wanted to stock your footwear?
Will you start wholesaling immediately?
If you will ever sell via the wholesale channel, you need to ensure that the retailer’s sizeable mark-up is factored in to your pricing.
What do I need my cost price/s to be?
For a new brand, I would always recommend working out the retail price your customer will pay first. Based on the retail price, calculate the cost price you can afford your factory to charge you.
If you would like more details on this including a handy pricing calculator, you will find it in my How to Start a Shoe Brand online course.
How will my product be constructed?
There are various shoe constructions, and smaller factories tend to specialise in just one or two of them.
Your product might be Cemented (glued), Goodyear Welted (stitched), Blakesewn (stitched in a different way), Sacchetto (where the lining is like a bag), Stitchdown, Veldtschoen, Strobel, Cornerstitch.
If all of that is a bit baffling, don’t worry. Employing the services of a freelance shoe designer to help with design and construction decisions will benefit you greatly.
When you know which construction your shoe requires, you can narrow down your shoe factory search.
How do I know which country to source from?
Start with your customer. How much do they care where their shoes are sourced from? Do they have perceptions of quality when they think of a particular country?
Can you easily travel to the factory location you have in mind? Sometimes a face-to-face meeting is necessary to remove roadblocks, ease communication and build a rapport.
I shared lots more information on finding the best shoe factory for your product in my How to Find a Shoe Manufacturer masterclass. To access the recording of this masterclass and get exclusive invites to live masterclasses, apply to join The Shoe Community.