Why are some small shoes so expensive?

Some of the questions we get asked are:

Why are small shoes not found in the shops any more?
Why are 'average' sized shoes so cheap?
Why are your small shoes so expensive?

The effect of rising prices and the Pound/Euro exchange rate:
For example, in the 3 years since Autumn 2006, we saw the trade price, at the European factories, rise by about 10% - so, for example, an £80 shoe should have gone up to £88. However, the value of the Euro against the Pound had also gone up - by about 38%. Added to the trade cost increase of 10%, this roughly translated into a general price hike of 50%. So that £80 pair of shoes would then cost about £120. At Small-shoes.co.uk, we absorbed most of that increase, so that we only raised that £80 shoe's price to about £95 (taking a cut in possible profit of about £25). This is what we refer to as being "well below the market price".

The effect of competition from the Far East:
Virtually all the shoes in the shops these days are imported - very few are now 'Made In Britain' any more! Most imported shoes are made in China (China's annual output has exceeded 10 billion pairs in the past few years, accounting for 66% of global manufacturing total for footwear), Vietnam, India and other Far East countries. Only the big chain stores and catalogues can afford to buy in the required bulk (3000 pairs or so of each style) from these huge factories. Importantly, the proportion of the population with small feet is getting less and less, to the extent that, today, these factories no longer consider it economically viable to make just a few shoes in the smallest sizes. To survive in the global market, they have to recognise that the most lucrative market is with the big importers who only buy the fastest-selling, average sizes (usually from size 4 upwards).

Result - the 'average' sizes are plentiful in the chain stores, and can be bought very cheaply*.

( *Chris Granger - founder of small-shoes.co.uk (2003 - 2013) says "I once went on a shoe-making course and made a pair - it took me all day! I certainly wouldn't like to try to make a living selling them at the £15 or so a pair that the 'cheap' imported shoes sell for over here. The ex-factory price for such shoes is typically around 2 or 3 dollars a pair ...")

2013 update: You may have noticed recently that clothes and shoes in the shops are getting much more expensive than last year. Why ? Because the Chinese (for example) are putting up their prices and the effect of exchange rates!

The effect of the way shoes are distributed to shops:
Most shoe shops have to buy from distributors - companies who import vast quantities of shoes direct from the manufacturers and then sell them on, at 'trade price' in smaller quantities, to the shops (who then sell them on at 'retail' prices, to the customer). The distributors only supply shoes in 'cartons', which are made up to contain a fixed assortment of sizes, so that there may be, for example, 1 pair of size 4, 2 pairs of size 5, 4 pairs of size 6, and so on). If the carton contained some size 1, size 2, size 3 shoes, most shops would never sell them, so they'd be left with unsold stock - so the distributors no longer include those sizes in the cartons.

The effect of the limited number of small factories left still making small sizes:
The only small shoes which are still being made are produced, on a smaller scale, by a handful of manufacturers, typically in Italy and Spain and the Far East. These shoes are very comfortable, high quality ones, and are actually worth the higher prices - once you wear them, you can tell the difference.

Related articles:
How do I use this site to buy small shoes?
How will I know what size to order?
What if I want to send shoes back?