01:15 – Thoughts on “The Retail Apocalypse”
02:36 – The importance of one-on-one with customers
04:10 – How Shoetopia has adapted to a new retail world
05:53 – The importance of The Personal Touch, in the customer experience
06:28 – Strategies to overcome recent retailer challenges
08:55 – What’s ahead for Shoetopia
10:20 – Summary
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YouTube: Shoetopia Footwear
Jason Bavington (00:00):
Hey everyone. It’s Jason with DUX — Your Local City Guide. And welcome to another fantastic episode of our video blog. Today we’re in Fergus, Ontario, just at the South end as you’re either heading out of town to Guelph or from Guelph heading into Fergus and we’re at Shoetopia, with Peter. He’s the owner of Shoetopia.
Peter Mohr (00:17):
Jason Bavington (00:17):
Thanks for having us out.
Peter Mohr (00:17):
Well, thanks for coming.
Jason Bavington (00:20):
My pleasure. So yeah, it was kind of cool how we got connected through our business networks and all that sort of stuff. And I was really curious about learning more about what you’re up to.
Peter Mohr (00:30):
Well, I mean, we’ve been here, I’ve been here 10 years. The store is now 21 years old. We moved here from the Ottawa area 10 years ago and we also have another store in Mount Forest. So, just up further up North on Highway Six. Yeah, independent retail is still alive and strong. You know, a lot of people are, you hear, especially these days, everything about, you know, the “Retail Apocalypse” and everything. And, you know, to be frank, our door counts are down. We don’t have as many people coming in, but the people that are coming in are coming in with a purpose. And they’re coming in ready to buy, wanting what they want. And that’s the thing with independent retail is that, you know, we’re professionals. And for people that are looking, they have foot issues or they have certain specific needs or they need somebody to work with them.
Peter Mohr (01:24):
That’s what we do. And so we work with our clients day in, day out, and we’re dealing with all sorts of different issues, orthotic fits and bunyons and people that have sore Achilles. Or maybe you’ve had an operation or different things like that. And we deal with runners. I mean back here it’s sandal time. So sure, lots of sandals, name brands, stuff that you can’t find in some of just your local sort of mall stores, let’s say. So if you’re looking for something a little better quality and a little more structure to it and stuff like that, that’s the kind of stuff that we do, really, and that’s what we focus on.
Jason Bavington (02:05):
Yeah. I imagine your customers really appreciate that kind of one-on-one attention. Because you don’t get that at a big box place. You especially don’t get that when you’re browsing online at an online retailer. And I imagine because you’ve been here so long, you probably had an opportunity to get to know your customers, get to know them, not just as a customer, but as a friend and say, “Oh yeah, you need to come in for your, you know, your fancy shoes this weekend. I know that that big event comes up every single year.” I’m sure people really appreciate that.
Peter Mohr (02:31):
We see it, like we didn’t see it this year, but I mean, you know, the Fergus Truck Show or the Highland Games or something. People that would come for the Highland Games in August every year, they would stop in here and this would be a pilgrimage to get their Mephistos or their Birkenstocks or their Blundstones. We hear it a lot. It’s really interesting. It’s very heartwarming. Because, you know, we’re always trying to do our best for our customers and make sure that they have a good experience. And I think that’s one of the differentiators independent retail. We have a web store. We sell online. We do curbside pickup. You know, we shifted and I was delivering stuff all over the country, you know, down to Guelph and Waterloo and Mount Forest and Drayton and all over the place through the times to get our customers what they need. And our customers were fantastic when even when we were down for those nine weeks, supported us on our web store, shoetopia.ca. And now that we’re back open they’re back coming in and we’re having great visits and some good retail therapy.
Jason Bavington (03:34):
Yeah. Nice, good to hear. And so, as we know, the world around us has changed a little bit over the past few months. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about how Shoetopia has kind of now adapted to the times into a new retailer environment and, what are your tricks up your sleeves that have led to some of your success?
Peter Mohr (03:49):
Well, I think for the most part, when we’re reaching out to our client base, they’re hearing from me and for that, it’s the personal connection. And for me, I’ve found that through this time, the relationship portion of our business as independent retailers, has to have been stronger than ever. And we’ve worked really hard. I’ve worked hard on that. And our team has worked really hard on that to solidify our relationships, keep those relationships strong. So that when people think ‘I need a pair of shoes,’ they just think shoetopia. It’s just like, it’s an automatic. There’s two sort of words that aren’t even words, two expressions that sort of doesn’t matter what language and one is “ahhhhh” when you have that sort of “ahhhhh” oeeling. It’s like, Oh, that feels good. And if we can deliver that to our customer and when somebody looks in one of our mirrors or something like that, and they’re like, “Hhmmmm.” And they’re looking at themselves and they’re saying, “you know what? I look good!” So if I can make you feel good and I, and if I can make you go, ahhhhh those feel good, then our job’s been done. And that’s what we try to deliver every time on our web store or web store purchases. You know, we write them a thank you note and all this kind of stuff we want to try and personalize even a web store experience as much as we can for our customers. So that when they think shoes, they think Shoetopia.
Jason Bavington (05:07):
Yeah. I think that, like, to your point about being the personal touch, I think that’s really, really important. And as you mentioned, you know, you built that sense of community throughout the whole Covid and shut down and lockdown, all that sort of stuff and keeping those relationships going. And you’re right. And this is a really, really important takeaway. So all you retailers take note. Having those personal touches that make the customer feel like they’re more than just a wallet. So it’s like, “Hey, thanks for your purchase. Good luck, good luck, Frank, you know, your friends at Shoetopia,” –Peter Having that connection where they know that someone took that time out of their day to go that extra step to make you feel special. And it’s that experience that you can’t replicate that online. So as it is connection and relationships. So yeah, I think that’s really, really good that you guys have identified that and work really hard to engage with your customer base at that level. And what would you say some of your challenges that you’ve had over the past several months in. What have you done to overcome those and “fail forward” as it is?
Peter Mohr (06:04):
Well, I mean, I think every retailer right now is dealing with store traffic. It’s just getting people to come in through the door. We know how many people come in through our door. We have a little clicker basically, and we’re down. Our store traffic is down. People aren’t coming in like they did last year at this time. But again, like I said, we’re experience. We have more time with people when they do come in. So we can actually maybe even give them better service than they ever received before. And so we’re able to spend more time, have that better relationship. And from that reason, you know, we’re, working hard to look at new lines that our customer base might be interested in for next season. And footwear for a lot of people you have to get in it and feel it, especially if you have issues in any given way. You have to feel it on your foot and see if it fits and whether it’s going to deal with what you’re wanting.
Jason Bavington (07:05):
And then you get that “ahhhhh”.
Peter Mohr (07:07):
Yeah, that’s it. So, I mean, we’re continuing to show most of everything on our web store. And what happens are people will go on the web store at shoetopia.ca they’ll browse a bit at home while they’re watching their favourite show or a little bit of baseball or whatever the case is. And they’ll browse a little bit and then they’ll come through the door and they’ll say, I saw this pair of Rikers or Blundstones or Birkenstocks or New Balance or whatever the case is on your web store. And I’d like to try it now. So then that gives us the opportunity to, you know, have had that conversation and give them, a good fitting. And if that works for them. And if it doesn’t, then we’re right here and we can offer up other suggestions. Like we talked about, I mean, we’re professionals here. Our customers come in, they recognize the faces. They’re like, Oh, she’s the one that helped me or.
Peter Mohr (07:57):
He’s the one that helped me last time. I want to talk to that person.
Jason Bavington (08:00):
You made my feet feel so good!
Peter Mohr (08:01):
Yeah. Right. And so those are heartwarming stories and all of the stuff you talked about, what are we doing? Well, we’ve set up our stores. We’re super over the top about sanitizing and all this sort of thing. We have boxes for people to try on. We quarantine the shoes after they’ve tried them on. We sanitize them. So all of this sort of stuff is part of making people feel comfortable.
Jason Bavington (08:24):
So what’s ahead for the future of Shoetopia? Where do you see things going? I know you mentioned you’re going to bring in more boots for all of our Down South people who are going to be Up North this year. Yeah. What else is up your sleeve?
Peter Mohr (08:35):
Well, there’s always newness. And I think that’s another interesting part of retail is that if you don’t have newness, people get bored. You know, we brought in some new socks this year. Features is a new line of socks that we have, which are technical socks and, like, if you have plantar fasciitis, it’s a sock that sucks up in the arch and, I mean, some really interesting stuff. There’s new developments going on all the time in every industry. Well there is in shoes and socks and purses and all this sort of stuff too. And that’s part of our job as independent retailers of letting people know what’s new. Because unless somebody has already told them, they won’t know, you know, some of the things like RFID in the purses and the wallets that are protecting. You know, like there’s a lot of people wearing athletic shoes these days, not as many people wearing work shoes. So we’re bringing in Brooks, which is a line that we haven’t had in the store for a few years, but is North America’s number one selling athletic line. So we’ll have those here in another couple of weeks. And so we’re adding where we think we need to add, to fulfill our customer’s needs because that’s essentially what we need to do is make sure that when our customers walk through the door, they can get what they want.
Jason Bavington (09:48):
You take good care of them. So, yeah so in summary, throughout Covid, you kept in touch with your customers, you encourage the community, that relationship, that engagement, and you would send stuff out through your stores, even like home delivery to way out in the middle of nowhere. And you, but you always include that personal touch to make the customer feel warm and welcome. And now that you’re open, you’re welcoming your customers back slowly as more and more come through the door. Not as many now, but hopefully more as we go forward. And again, you have that, you continue that personal touch and they come back now
Jason Bavington (10:20):
more for the runners. Maybe not as much as the work shoes, but they know where to find you, they’re comfortable shopping with you. They know that you’ll give them the attention that they can’t get at an online retailer. And they know that you’ll always be there for them, for dealing with any sort of foot issues, that they have.
Peter Mohr (10:35):
There’s a lot of people questioning, “are they going to make it? We’re not going anywhere. We’re alive and well. And you know what, when you walk through the door at Shoetopia, it’s usually a pleasant experience. And that’s, I think the big thing, people don’t want to be dragged down. They want to be brought up. And that’s what we try to do every day with all of our experiences is to make it a good experience that when you’re walking out the door, you’re like, you know what, that’s my favorite shoe store. And you know, I want to go see them again.
Jason Bavington (11:06):
That’s cool. Having that feeling I think is really, really great. Yeah Peter, I celebrate everything that you’ve accomplished to date with your store. And I know you guys are well positioned to move forward headstrong and fort write, passion success all the time and persistence breeds success, and you guys know all about that. So yeah, I celebrate everything that you’re doing and I think it is exciting how you continue to grow and adapt and change and support your community along the way. So, thanks. Yeah. So thank you very much.
Peter Mohr (11:32):
It’s been a pleasure.
Jason Bavington (11:32):
It was great to learn about it. So what we’ll do is we’ll post this video blog on our website. If you’re watching this video anywhere else but on our website, head on over to dux.city, click the video blog link in the menu, and you’ll find this shoetopia blog post there.
Jason Bavington (11:47):
And like I said, we’ll post all the goodies. To the social media and the website and all that jazz. And maybe a few, like, foot-related jokes. I’m sure you’ve got something.
Peter Mohr (11:54):
I’ve got a couple.
Jason Bavington (11:55):
Yeah. Well, you guys are in good hands. Or maybe feet. I don’t, I’m not up on my foot puns, but I’ll work on that.
Peter Mohr (12:01):
Yeah. There you go. Sounds good.
Jason Bavington (12:02):
So again, Jason, with DUX — Your Local City Guide. Here with Peter of Shoetopia in Fergus, Ontario. Be sure to come on out, just look them up on their website and yeah, they got tons of selection here, so you’re in. Good, good hands. Take care everyone. We’ll talk to you soon.
Peter Mohr (12:17):
Bye for now.