The Shoe Snob Blog

December 2, 2013

Written by , Posted in News

Jack Erwin Shoes – My Take on Them

jack-erwin-jake

Picture Courtesy of Dappered.com

There is a new brand on the scene that are creating quite a big storm in the shoe world, mainly in the US however and their name is Jack Erwin. For many of you outside of the US, this might very well be the first time that you are hearing about it. So allow me to explain what I have read and come across so far. The main point of their brand is to offer well made shoes for under $200. A great idea I’d say. And from the looks of things they are doing a good job and maintaining a good looking shoe RELATIVE to it’s pricepoint. They are having their line kept simple, classic and have created a look and feel of a fusion between British & Italian aesthetic. At that price-point I can’t say that anyone else has done what they have done in terms of maintaining a certain quality-like appearance, with the exception of Meermin of course. Everything else at $200 just looks like rubbish to me.

jack-erwin-launch-lineup

Okay, so now for the pros and cons of the brand and let’s start with the pros. While I proclaim myself “The Shoe Snob” and am quite a brat when it comes to shoes, and therefore mainly write about ones that are +$500 that does not mean that I am an idiot that thinks that all shoes should cost that much. I know very well that not everyone can afford the C&J’s, G&G’s, Saint Crispins of the world, yet may very well aspire to dress nicely and look sharp. That is where brands like Jack Erwin come into place and fulfil a gap in the market, supplying good looking shoes at a reasonable and affordable price. And I think it’s great as those that cannot afford the more expensive ones should not be left with only the typical $200 rubbish that is out there. Finally someone managed to create a shoe that looks like it cost more but actually doesn’t. Well done for that JE! And I now have another brand to refer to those that email asking for good brands at affordable prices, so thanks for making my job easier guys!

Courtesy of Dappered.com

Courtesy of Dappered.com

Now the cons actually have less to do with the shoes and more about educating the customer on the business model that they chose as not to think that all brands need to now follow suit. I will pre-emptively say that while some of you may think that I am writing this to back up my own brand, I am not (as I don’t need to justify my shoes or prices) but merely wanting to educate those that think that just because something is done by one that it should be done by many or all. That being, they chose a very bold route to undertake in order to get the absolute best price to the customer, not only in price of shoes, but in the fact that ALL of the shipping costs are paid by the company and not by the consumer. Impressive yes, but dangerous too as it can create a very demanding consumer, which is not always a good thing in my humble opinion. Paying the shipping to the customer makes sense as it is enticing. Paying for their returns is where for me it gets dangerous…..(so just to clarify, the business model is not bad, but it can confuse customers into thinking that everyone else is ripping them off, when they are not)

Now. when starting a shoe line you basically have two options, Direct to Customer sales or Wholesale Pricing. If you plan on never selling your shoes to a 3rd party and will forever be selling directly to a customer, then getting the best price possible for them should be your aim (as it was for JE), while still maintaining a healthy margin as to keep the company afloat. However, if you ever plan to sell to the Nordstrom’s, the Selfridge’s, the Leffot’s or any other store for that matter in order to grow your brand internationally then you have to have what is called a wholesale mark up. That means you have to be able to sell your shoes to those stores, making a tiny bit of money and allowing for them to get their retail price factored in, all while trying to keep your shoe prices down. This of course means that in comparison to a Direct to Customer model, your retail prices will be a bit higher. Wholesale mark ups are in 95% of the brands out there. Only a handful like Jack Erwin, Meermin, Septieme Largeur etc. have decided to keep the costs low by going straight to the customer. Fair play on all of them as it gives the customer a great reason to buy from them, but also makes it hard to really expand your company internationally as your company will forever be your only source of obtaining the shoes.

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The only other thing that bothered me is the fact that they claim to have hand-stitched soles. That is clearly not right and it is evident by looking at the sole above. In reality it does not even make sense for a bespoke shoe to be hand stitched when asked for blake construction as it harder to do then a hand welted shoe. It ONLY ever makes sense to do blake stitch by machine, because if they did not, the shoe would cost $2000, not $200. Other than that critique, I think that Jack Erwin shoes are a great option for those looking to smarten themselves up but might be on a budget or simply hate the idea of spending lots of money on shoes. At the end of the day, Jack Erwin makes my goals easier, as for me the most important thing, greater than my own brand and which is why I write this blog, is to see more men wearing better shoes. And if they can help with a certain sector of the market then all the power to them and I hope that they do well and start converting all of those that wear the Kenneth Cole’s, the Russell & Bromley, the Steve Madden etc into Jack Erwin customers…. Get all of those guys JE!

  • John B

    That explanation of the bussiness models was quite interesting. I’d like to read some more info in the future.
    About the brand now, I must admit I liked their loafer (and the boot, but non-lace up boots don’t work for me, the vamp is too empty) but I got dissapointed since they only ship to the U.S. I’ve seen a lot of new brands, like Just a Mens Shoe, John Doe, Beckett Simonon etc, offering cheap and well made (or so they claim) shoes the last couple of months. What’s your take?

    • TheShoeSnob

      that’s the way the business model works. It has to be local shipping. No company can afford to swallow £50 shipping to East Asia or Australia. It just doesn’t make sense. So therefore, in order to keep the “Free Shipping” slogan, they simply cut out the rest of the world. Fortunately for them, America is big enough a market to sustain a brand forever.

  • ramalhoni

    The Business Model is a decision that I will have to make pretty soon on my Brand, maybe you can give me a hand Justin… I own a small made to measure brand (ramalhoni) that recently started making a ready to wear collection and also a sneaker collection. We did the GDS fair and got some accounts, but since we’re really small out quantities are small, and our margins too!
    The predicament that awaits me is, should I drop the accounts and spend all my time and money in direct to consumer sales, or should we continue the wholesale path and little by little build a network of distribution. What is really making this decision hard for us is that the place where we really make some money is on direct to costumer sales, otherwise the wholesales account destroy or margins…
    In your experience what’s be “best way” to go?!
    Cheers… and keep up the amazing work at the Website, it’s my go to place for shoe related info…

    • TheShoeSnob

      unless you have massive backing and a lot of connections in the journalism industry it is very difficult to make the straight to customer model happen successfully. Best to go for the other route in my humble opinion

  • http://www.essentialmanliness.com/ The Essential Guide to Manline

    No mention of where these are made? China or India? Maybe Portugal?

    Anyway, some of them look quite nice, and I would actually like to buy that “Jake” balmoral-styled monkstrap. It’s very smart. The last shape looks attractive for all of them. Alas, they don’t ship internationally, and even if you have a US mailing address, they only accept cards with US mailing addresses. So for now, this post is American-only. Shame.

    Ramalhoni, I’ve just looked at your site. I don’t much like this “crossover” style personally; Church’s are all over it these days and it makes me queasy. But one thing, though: I don’t like jodphur boots, but yours is the only one I’ve ever seen that I wanted to wear. In regard to your question, if I might make a suggestion: the way you’ve asked it suggests you know the answer is “go direct”. Read Justin’s posts about getting started and I’m sure you’ll see that he’s faced exactly the same challenges and come to exactly the same conclusions. Cf. Septieme Largeur, Ed et Al and several other smaller makers featured in these pages. Anyway, I wish you good luck. Maybe I’ll write about you one day.

    • Laurence

      Strange that they have the shoes in UK sizes when their market is the US.
      Strange, or pretentious?

      • http://www.essentialmanliness.com/ The Essential Guide to Manline

        Depends where they’re made, and where their lasts were designed (assuming this was outsourced) – they might have been conceived in UK sizes from the beginning. I think they use UK sizes in Mexico, for example, another likely manufacturing base – maybe the most likely, with NAFTA etc, now I think about it.

    • TheShoeSnob

      made in Portugal I believe…