The future of Crockett & Jones

Wednesday, February 10th 2021
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Shoe brand of the year: Crockett & Jones

Runners up: Edward Green, TLB

 

Crockett & Jones has won our 2021 award for best shoe brand - an accolade intended to recognise a shoemaker that is adapting to this age of online retail and casualisation. 

Among the votes from readers, however, several did bring up Crockett's lack of e-commerce, and perhaps old-fashioned outlook. 

Said one: “Whilst C&J would always get my vote on the balance of quality/price, I certainly wouldn’t consider them for adapting to the current situation… still no web orders, and annual sale has been a bit of a mess with the idea of having to email each store individually to find out what they’ve on sale.”

And another: “My other half used their mail order to buy me some boots for Christmas; she was bemused at the process of having to email them rather than just buy online. In not addressing this during Covid they’ve really missed a trick.”

These comments were easily outnumbered by those lauding things like Crockett’s excellent customer service, but still the overall feeling was of a great company, not quite keeping up. 

When I arranged to interview James Fox, their head of marketing, it turned out that the award was oddly well-timed. I was saved from writing something more critical by the fact that Crockett’s was actually about to launch its e-commerce. 

James spoke to me - at the end of January - from the company’s new e-comm headquarters, across the street from the factory. And the service is now due to launch later this month.

 

James Fox

Permanent Style: James, were you surprised by these comments from readers?

James Fox: Not that much. As a company we’re a stalwart of the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it’ approach. That’s probably been the foundation of a lot of our success over the past 30 years, but it does also create a situation where people aren’t that open to change. 

A lot of people have been at this company a long time, and that leads to institutionalisation. I think that happens to all of us, and to a lot of companies. But it’s a particular issue for traditional manufacturers.

PS: That must have made all the changes you’ve had to make in the past year - from Covid, from Brexit - particularly difficult. 

It has. I think we’ve gone through more fundamental change in the past year than at any time since the Second World War. 

Most of it comes from trying to remain who we are, though, in the face of legislation and other things that have been imposed on us. For example, all of the changes we’ve had to make to working conditions as a result of Covid - PPE, personal distancing.

And the business changes have been a nightmare. The government seems to think it’s easy to shut down a whole retail operation within a few hours. 

PS: What convinced you to finally introduce e-commerce?

It’s something we’ve been thinking about for almost a decade, certainly since I joined the company. But the pandemic was the opportunity to make it happen.

PS: I guess ideally it would have launched at the beginning of the pandemic, not the end. Why didn’t you launch it earlier?

Like everything we do, we wanted to do it right. And our success as a business means we can afford to take our time, even if our retail has effectively been closed for 80% of the past year. So we’ve been working incredibly hard to make it exactly what we want it to be. 

 

The Upton boot

PS: There are some pretty standard problems traditional companies have when they start e-commerce - including setting prices internationally, and aligning stock between stores. How are you tackling those?

Pricing is less of a problem for us, because we’ve had our own retail for a long time, and always stated prices on our website - even if you couldn’t buy from there. 

Stock is certainly an issue. Our approach is to set up a new retail arm here, in this building across from the factory, which will serve as the e-commerce.

PS: So they will have their own stock, separate from all the shops? 

Yes that’s right. 

PS: What happens if a customer wants a shoe that’s in one of the stores, but not in the e-commerce building? They’ll expect to be able to buy it, won’t they? 

We’ve tried to tie those two together to a certain extent. So, if you’re in a shop, the retailer will be able to access both their stock and the e-commerce stock. They can sell you all of it, and easily look up what’s available elsewhere. 

But if you shop online, you will just have direct access to the e-commerce stock. If you want to see if the shoe is available in a store somewhere, there will be a search function to look that up. Then you can talk to the store and buy from them. 

Part of the reason we wanted to do this was so we weren’t cannibalising the sales in the physical shops. It would also be logistically difficult to sell the shops’ stock on the website. They could offer a customer a shoe, only to find it had just been sold online. 

 

Paris

PS: I can see that, it makes sense internally. But from a customer’s point of view, they just see one brand and one website. It can still seem odd that the site says a shoe is unavailable, even though it exists in a shop. 

Yes, I understand that. It’s just very difficult unless all the stock is in one place. We have increased production in some areas to make it easier though. 

So for example, our collection is divided into stock shoes - classic styles, available all the time - and made-to-order shoes, which stores can order 10 or 12 pairs of, with small design changes, different leathers and so on. 

We’ve now increased production of those made-to-order shoes that are in our stores, so they’re all available online as well. It’s more styles we have to be making regularly, but it reduces the chance of something not being available.

PS: I guess part of the issue is that many brands readers will know, have just one shop, or perhaps two. And all of their physical and online sales are done from one place. 

Yes, it’s harder for bigger brands in that respect. They’re also more likely to have the issue of both retail and wholesale. 

We certainly have that with different styles. For example Barneys Japan often orders quite unusual MTO shoes - they have their own taste, and they need to stand out in what is a pretty crowded marketplace for Crockett in Tokyo. Those shoes are unique to them, and won’t ever be available from our e-commerce. 

PS: I know that’s common with brands, and yet it can still be confusing. The shoes will say Crockett & Jones on them, after all. 

I think we’re helped by the fact that the Crockett’s customer is pretty intelligent, and worldly. They usually understand these issues. 

PS: And you have an extra wrinkle, with your French and Belgian stores, correct?

Right. The stores in Paris and Brussels were the result of a partnership with a long-time customer, years ago. And they have always had their own styles, and last development. Indeed, until a few years ago they had their own website as well. 

Their stock will continue to be separate from everything else. Though we may sell some of their styles on the e-commerce site. Paris has always had a style that’s more, not feminine, but certainly dandyish. 

 

The Teign loafer
The Coniston boot

PS: OK, I think we’ve successfully pulled apart that thorn bush, and hopefully explained it to readers. Let’s move onto the other big challenge for a modern shoe brand - style. What changes have you seen in what Crockett’s customers are buying?

In the past few years, sales of our more formal shoes - cap-toe oxfords, smart derbys - have levelled off. Not dropped, which is interesting, but certainly plateaued. And at the same time, we’ve seen a huge increase in sales of boots and loafers. 

That might have been accelerated by the pandemic, but it’s nothing new. We’ve also introduced styles that suit this more casual approach, and the push for comfort. So we have more unlined models, for example, in suede or grains. I absolutely live in my unlined Teign, they’re so comfortable. 

And we introduced the City Rubber sole, a slim version that looks just like a leather sole from the side. That’s been incredibly popular. 

PS: That’s good, I know in the past there were more Dainite soles, and not everyone likes them. 

No, the normal Dainites aren’t great for city wear - the circles on the bottom don’t give much surface area to contact with the ground. They were designed for country wear really. 

We did work with Dainite on our City Sole, though, so it’s still British made, which we liked. It also has a higher rubber content than some soles. 

 

The City Sole
The Torino loafer

PS: If you’re stripping out the lining on shoes, in casual styles, and changing the soles, at what point does it stop looking like a Crockett’s shoe?

Good question. I guess we always want it to be Goodyear-welted so we can resole it, adding to the longevity. 

We’re releasing an even more unstructured shoe in the Spring, which has no structure at all in the toe box, and a more flexible sole and welt. But we still wanted it to be Goodyear-welted. 

PS: But you also sell slippers, and driving shoes, which aren’t welted. So isn’t it more about aesthetics - about not fitting with the look of the brand? 

Of course, the shoes still have to look like they belong in the Crockett & Jones collection. For example, we don’t produce our driving shoes or slippers, these are outsourced to manufacturers in Italy and the UK. We are heavily involved in the development process and both products fit well into the wider product offering.

We’re also one of the few Northampton shoemakers not selling a trainer or sneaker, and this is by choice. We could easily source some and brand them C&J. The reason we don’t want to offer a trainer is simple, we have absolutely no expertise in that market. Ok, we use to make spiked running shoes, cycling shoes and golf shoes before the war, but nothing like the trainers you see today. This is best left to the experts, just like Goodyear-welted footwear is best left to us.

PS: Finally, how do you feel about the future? Do you really think a formal shoe company has long-term prospects?

I do. Ours has never been a growing market. We’ve always been more interested in maintaining or growing our share of that pretty static dress-shoe market. And it might shrink a little. But there will always be a desire for the kind of shoes and boots we sell. 

PS: Thanks James, and good luck with launch of e-commerce, as well as the new unstructured shoe. They both sound like the kind of thing PS readers were after. 

My pleasure Simon. And thank you to all your readers for voting us their favourite shoe brand. 

 

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Jonny

Great read. I’m excited to see the unstructured offering in Spring. Like James, I can’t praise my pair of Teigns enough. I think they’re the most versatile summer shoe I have, and I think I’ll pick up another pair this spring so I can rotate and wear them more often.

Daniel

I would be very interested to see in which aspects the shoes from Japan and France / Belgium are different from the standard range.

JJ

In the shape of the last, and in the models kept in stock in the shops.

Many of the lasts are narrower and more elongated, with more of a pointed toe, the shops stock more loafers and fewer cap-toe Oxfords. Call it a Continental aesthetic.

Matt H

I was going to raise this question. Does anyone reading know of any of the continental model names so I can search for them?

H

I own the Malton in Dark Brown Calf, which I believe (but am not 100% certain) was originally meant for the Japanese market. It is certainly on a more dainty last than one would typically expect from a C&J shoe, and is unusual for having flat laces.

It also says on the C&J website that the 367 last was originally developed for the Japanese market, and I have tried on pairs in these too. Oddly these “Japanese” lasts seem to fit me better than other C&J, but I have long and narrow feet with a high instep.

john henwood

Simon, was a model name mentioned for the new unstructured shoe mooted for Spring?

Matthew V

A reassuring article.

The continued success of C&J will be important to many readers. I discovered C&J through the shoes they made for Paul Smith in the early 1990s and have been a loyal supporter of the brand ever since, including using the MTO service and even an unusual pair via Fransboone.

I like the move to reinforce and not cannabalise the shop sales, the shop experience and welcoming helpful staff are very hard to match with an online sale and even in this rapidly changing retail market, retaining a physical presence is to be applauded.

All I need to do now is convince my wife that I really do need another pair of C&J shoes….

Emerging Genius

Some of the comments in the interview, in my opinion, suggests that this shoemaker will have a challenging time ahead. We all should be for tradition, but resistance to change can be tricky.

I wish them well, but after reading this article there will be headwinds ahead and they still seem unsure as to how to proceed.

Hugh

I love my C&J shoes and boots. They are the perfect balance between “price and performance”. I intend to do my bit to try to keep this company going and it is in this spirit that I very much welcome their e-commerce initiative.

Bob

Always a pleasure to interact with C&J staff in-store. Look forward to doing so again in 2021.

Josh

An insightful interview with some excellent, incisive questioning! I had clocked the planned e-commerce launch a couple of days ago on their website, and this piece did a lot to provide the context. Also, the design points on the ‘city sole’ are really interesting; I always presumed rubber soles were all alike and better suited to London wear in inclement weather than any other option, but the drawbacks of the Dainite original are useful to know. I’ve been delaying building a good, basic collection of shoes for a little while, and I have been planning to use C&J to do so for the overlapping advantages of price, quality and the convenience of living in London, close to their retail shops and with access to their repairs services. I’m now even more excited to do so.

Peter Ha

The Teign is a fabulous loafer(great price point), and I have lived in mine during lockdown. Interesting times ahead for the industry, I have great brand loyalty to C and J. The only thing me returning would be if the brand moved away from uk manufacture-whilst I understand the rationale,I think it has damaged the reputation of those who have. And,call me old fashioned, prefer UK made shoes. Very happy they have finally have a web store.

Matthew V

Fully agree about UK manufacture.

I wonder if luxury / quality brands will pull away from outside the EU / UK manufacture due to the apparent post Brexit import / exit hassles with non EU products?

Noel

They may well face higher costs because of the paperwork required to import raw materials (such as the skins they use) from the EU.

JJ

Not so. From April 2021, all products of animal origin, including hides and skins, will also require pre-notification and relevant health documentation. This will raise costs even further. From July 2021, traders moving all goods will have to make full declarations and pay tariffs at the point of importation.

The simple requirement to check the nature of item against the list of commodity codes will raise operating costs. It happened before in all countries that introduced tariffs and excise duties. It takes up valuable time, and in the end, someone has to do it. The process is not easily automated. Which means paying someone to do it.

Here, have a look at the multitude of sections and subsections: https://www.trade-tariff.service.gov.uk/sections

JJ

Sure, but now they have to check commodity codes for items going between the EU and UK, which they didn’t have to do before. That’s extra work, which means extra salaries and more spreadsheets, which raises production costs.

Besides which, the present trade deal will be revised in future, which means more uncertainty.

In relation to the activities covered by this website, we could mention one other important consequence of Brexit: the days of the foreign artisan or craftsman setting up shop in the UK are over. With the end of free movement, there are only three ways to move to the Uk and work here:
1) a sponsored visa as a skilled worker (which is subject to arbitrary judgement) by a licence-holder, which means you have to be employed by UK firm (which can afford the cost, delay, and faff – not many can. I doubt any tailoring house is on the list).
2) the so-called Global Talent Scheme, which is open only to researchers employed by research and academic institutions, some artists, some fashion designers, some highly skilled people in digital technology, or top CEOs. In any case you still need an endorsement.
3) an Innovator visa, which requires you to show that you’ll bring millions in inward investment, and employ a large workforce.

Not to put too fine a point on it, this rules out anyone except the directors of LVMH. It doesn’t bode well for the tailoring trade.

Many of the effects of Brexit are being ignored because they have been subsumed by Covid/Lockdown crisis (“Never let a good crisis go to waste.” But they’re there, and they will have a very real effect on the industry.

Robin

I note that regarding e-commerce they been “thinking about (it) for almost a decade” !
That comment combined with the answers to questions around managing stock and e-commerce stock begs the question how competent are management to even run the business !?

Sorry Simon , but you’ve been far to generous to them .

The shoes are excellent.
Shame about the management.

Lewis

I much prefer the smaller store towards the end of Jermyn Street and invariably go in there to be led by the excellent team, with only a vague idea of what I might want. I often come out with something unexpected. Living in London I have that option of course so for those that don’t, e-commerce is a must. Good luck to them.

Ian

Hmm. Ten years thinking about it, a year to set it up and endless reasons for not putting the customer first. And city shoes with soles that were not suitable for the city. It sounds to me like they still don’t fully understand ecommerce or modern customer service. I wish them well though – I’ve been pleased with my C&Js and am planning to get another pair.

Dieter

I disagree. A Company who offers high quality products for a very reasonable price puts the customer first in my opinion. I think people nowadays love to exaggerate, probably because of social media whose business is based on that (promoting endless agitation and profit from it). I own several shoes and boots with Dainite soles and think they are good to wear during winter, in the city too. The newer so called City rubber soles are probably best during the rest of the year, especially on rainy days. There are many companies with modern E-commerce who offer trendy low quality products. I do not see any real problem with C & J products and service. They are not the most trendy or modern, that’s certainly true. But I think many loyal customers don’t care that much about it.

Ian

Interesting views but C&J has taken 11 years to start selling online and the exchanges in the article suggest that it has approached ecommerce from the point of view of what is best for C&J rather than what is best for the customer. Combining that with the head of marketing saying thay produce city shoes with soles that are not suitable for the city is I think, in those important respects, not putting the customer first. They do so in other ways as Dieter and others rightly point out, and long may that continue, but the impression I get is of a company struggling to modernise and which still doesn’t fully understand ecommerce or modern customer service.

Jagger54

Completely agree. Have been a loyal customer for more than 10 years and accumulated more pairs than I should! Love my Lobbs too but as far as price/quality is concerned, Crocketts are unbeatable.
The smaller stores in Jermyn St and the Royal Exchange are brilliant – service second to none.
I really hope they don’t change the manufacturing process and continue making their shoes in the UK.

Thorn

Sadly C&J doesn’t have an comprehensive stockist in or near Leeds, so I haven’t had an opportunity to try their offerings. I’d buy online if I’d already found a suitable last, but won’t buy that way blind.
Some of the Northampton brands have their own shops here. Come on, C&J, come north.

Hugh

I appreciate it is not “north” but they do have a couple of outlets in Birmingham.

Alex

With my quote being the second one used above bemoaning the lack of e-commerce, I feel I should clarify that I’m a massive fan of the brand and bar the forementioned, have nothing but positive things to say about C&Js product and customer service, particularly the excellent staff and manager Asif in their Burlington Arcade shop.
I also found discussion of the Dainite and City Sole interesting and hadn’t previously considered that the standard Dainite might not be ideal for town. The City Sole has been something of a game changer though and I’m struggling to justify ever returning to leather soles. Now that C&J are even offering City Soles on a couple of Hand Grade styles, I wonder if leather soles may end up being very niche?

Noel

Some people have mentioned that the Dainite soles can be slippery in wet weather due to the reduced contact area. I personally haven’t experienced this problem. What I like about the city sole is that it’s sleeker than the chunkier Dainite, making it more suitable for dressier shoes.

Unfortunately, only two models in the handgrade collection offer that sole, the Walton derby (which I have) and the Kew chukka. I would love it if they offered more handgrade models with the city sole.

I agree with you Alex that there’s less of a reason to go for a leather sole. I do live in Stockholm though, which restricts the use of leather soles outside to spring and summer. In my experience rubber soles last longer than leather ones. Having said that, a dressier oxford will always look nicer with a leather sole.

Carlos

My experience of dainite losing its grip is when I’ve gone from a paved London tube platform to a vinyl floored tube carriage on a wet day. Almost landed on someone’s lap on more than one occasion.

Felix

I think one aspect why e-commerce wasn’t so much of a priority for C&J is that through their extensive and well-maintained dealer network at least in every Western country it just takes a quick Google search to find a local (online) dealer anyways. So unlike, e.g., Carmina, availability was never really an issue. And I would actually also agree that in the high-end(ish) market customers know that dealers have their own models. E.g., for Edward Green, offerings are really all over the place and I can maybe find 20% of shoes I saw somewhere else (usually sold out in my size) on their own website. I don’t like many of the C&J lasts (a little too flashy and pointy), but as a company their sometimes vaguely dated approach to business is very charming – certainly more appealing than another hyper-polished LVMH brand or the usual Pitti-oriented influencer BS.

Dieter

I did order several shoes and boots from C & J over the years via E-Mail and always had enjoyable customer service. To me (as a foreigner) Crockett & Jones is a great example of British style and high quality. I also like that they do not participate in some foolish trends and stick to tradition and style. Their shoes are probably not the flashiest, but the understatement style is highly appreciated. Quality / price ratio is excellent to me. I think if they stick to their trademarks, they will always have a future.

Burt

Interesting read, thanks. Just wondering if C&J would consider a higher level of make in future, e.g. heel stiffeners and toe caps of real leather? That would set them a little apart amongst most of the other goodyear welted companies that have arisen during the last 10 years. Moved on to EG and G&G when I found out about the leather board in the heel cup and toe. However, I always got and get super service in C&J shops, you get a feeling they’re not just “sellers”, so happy to read that they support their dealers.

NB

I’m surprised Edward Green did not make the runner’s up list. I seem to recall them being mentioned a number of times in the PS Awards comments section.

Noel

C&J handgrade tends to be compared often to EG’s “mainline”. It would be quite a niche request to ask you to make that comparison, but I’d guess many readers have done so.

I have shoes from both and so far I haven’t found many differences , at least not in how they age and feel. It could well be that the internal structure of the EG (for example do they use leather heel stiffners?) is better. The main advantage of EG is that there’s far more choice in lasts and designs if compared just to C&J’s handgrade range. Other than that it seems tome me that C&J handgrade is better value for money (notwithstanding EG sales). Value is of course very subjective (as you have mentioned often).

EL

Do you own any shoes from C&J?

EL

I respect that C&J is well-made, that they are a good value, that they offer a wide range of styles, and that they are widely available. I get why they would win a democratic vote for best shoe brand based on these factors. Fine. But don’t you think it is odd to award them best shoe brand or best shoe brand of the year, when you don’t own a single pair from them? When all their styles are generic enough that you think they are done better by higher end brands? Again, not suggesting their shoes aren’t great in all the ways suggested above, they just seem a bit generic.

EL

In the past, it seemed like you heavily took the readers’ vote into account but ultimately decided yourself, or perhaps with some other judges.

I also disagree on the generic point. Edward Green and Alden both have some very iconic and recognizable models, G&G is very distinctive, etc.

Rik

Simon do you tend to always get the same last from EG?

Anonymous

Do you like the Dover model? Don’t think I have seen you wearing it

Anonymous

Oh I see thank you. Do you like this version: https://gentlemensfootwear.com/collections/edward-green/products/edward-green-dover-in-dark-brown-london-grain ?

Would it be versatile (i.e., wear with flannels or denim)?

Andrew Poupart

An interesting read and I wish C&J good fortune with their e-commerce endeavor. I’ve tried to like C&J and I still have one pair that I wear from time to time, but I have never found a C&J last that is comfortable for me. That does not mean I don’t recognize the value in their product; it just isn’t for me.

Noel

Interesting point Andy, it could well be the world’s greatest shoe, but if the last doesn’t suit you there isn’t much that can be done. And of course, we can see value (and even admire) on a product even if we don’t find it suitable for ourselves.

For my part I’ve been lucky in that the C&J 363 last fits me well. However most handgrade lasts are chisel / square toes, which is less to my taste, so choice is limited (I’m yet to try the MTO route) in this range. There are more last options in their mainline range if one is happy with that level of quality.

Kingstonian

For those of us who live near their shoe shops, or even their factory, it makes sense to buy the shoes there – after trying them on first.

This internet buying malarkey has drawbacks, with people desperately trying to second guess whether a particular last will fit; or how a size corresponds to a size in a favourite shoe.

As for Dainite, I have never had any problem wearing it in cities. Leather soles might be more appropriate for formal occasions when a sole might be visible but there is no issue with Dainite causing difficulties when worn in town. It’s an imaginary ‘issue’ in my opinion.

C&J handgrades – particularly the 337 last – are excellent footwear. I have Edward Green but I don’t think they are worth the extra money now – even at EG sale prices.

Paul Boileau

I’ve reached much the same conclusion. I’ve tried other manufacturers from Edward Green, G&G, even bespoke but still C&J dominate my shoe collection. It helps that my shoe tastes are fairly prosaic and that I’m not a hard fit. Also agreed that I am fortunate to be able to try on shoes in person- buying shoes over the internet isn’t for me.

FMA

February of last year, just before the pandemic hit the world, I had the opportunity to spent 4 days in London. And following a lot of Simon´s recommendations, I visited (and bought things from) Drake’s, PWVC, Trunk, Anglo Italian etc. For shoes I had Crocket & Jones in mind. It was the last day of my trip and the last shop I visited so I had already spent an obscene amount of money and wasn´t sure if It was wise to buy more stuff. But I was so well received by the staff, the shoes were beautiful, so I pulled the trigger and bought a brown Cavendish. Looking back it was a wise decision because god knows when I´m gonne be able to travel to Europe again. Unfortunately remiding me how I like my C&J make me a bit sad, as due to the pandemic I wore my Cavendish just once before everything closed. Anyway, happy to understand why C&J won the PS award. Also glad to know about the e-commerce.

Noel

Nice interview, thanks for arranging it Simon. I’m glad C&J won best shoe brand (they got my vote) given the quality product they produce and the excellent customer service. Looking forward to their e-commerce site even though visiting a store (when in London) is an enjoyable experience.

Regarding formality, not all GYW shoes are dress shoes surely? There are quite a few shoes and boots in the C&J that are rather informal. Maybe not as informal as a pair of trainers, but shoes that work well (if not best) with jeans. Loafers, brogues, boots with suede inserts, suede derbies. The AW20 collection contain quite a few of those, some with chunkier commando soles (not my taste but hardly dressy).

Noel

Indeed Simon. If those disposable sneakers will be the only footwear that people wear then nearly all the shoemakers discussed in PS are in serious trouble. Not to mention that it’ll make the world a little uglier (if one is allowed to say that).

Anonymous

A little chuffed to be quoted I have to admit and was glad to receive their newsletter announcing the e-commerce site (though wording was a bit disjointed).

I was curious about your question on changing styles with their answer being over several years. Did you clarify or ask about more recent timescales? I get the feeling they’re more glacial in nature and won’t consider that seismic changes could be afoot until a few more years evidence.

80 percent of my shoes are theirs so I am a keen customer but I do wonder if that’ll continue in the future

Brett

The staff in the New York store is excellent. I’ve only been able to deal with them over the phone, and every time they have been very generous with their time and fit advice. I think it is great that they are venturing into e-commerce. Bravo C&J!

Anonymous

Simon
Would love to see a “who advertises with us page”. Not out of doubts of your impartiality but more because I have never seen some of the names (e.g. Cinabre)

John

Hi Simon,
Personally, I don’t think Crockett’s current collection accurately reflects their true level of craftsmanship. To have a glimse at what they can produce, one has to take a look at the shoes they had been crafting over the past decades in addition to their MTO service and of course their bespoke shoes.
Unfortnately, what we see now from them is the result of an accomodation to the current generation of customers’ own sense of style. It’s not at all surprising that the Japanese or the French have come to see things differently than even the British!
John

Simon

Very interesting. Exactly spot on about e-commerce. Funny to see that I’m after loafers or boots in general and most of all comfortable shoes, exactly as described here

Dom

I’ve walked into a C&J store on many occasions with the hope of walking out with a new pair of shoes, unfortunately this is yet to happen. I have feet that require a G fitting shoe, a fitting that has largely been ignored by C&J, all bar a few token gesture offerings in some of the least interesting styles. I have been offered the opportunity to have any of the shoes made to fit me, but at a cost that doesn’t sit well at all, I would be getting the same £600 pair of shoes as anyone else, but paying three or four times that for them. It’s like a shop selling trousers making only up to 30” legs, and charging you double if you have the misfortune of being a 32. I know that UK 12 G’s are large feet, but not freakishly so, I have never thought of taking them on the road to let people see them. There are plenty of people my size walking around the UK. I’m hardly Shaquille O’Neal strolling in expecting a range of size 23’s, nor am I walking into a shoe shop in downtown Manila expecting to be catered for. I’m afraid C&J are not alone in this, it seems that unless I go bespoke my choice is between Grenson and Crocs, which is a coin toss these days.

DG

I’ve a similar issue but with narrow fitting rather than wide, very few of the English makers offers narrow width shoes and those that do typically only offer a black captoe oxford as their token offering. I’m curious as to what price you were quoted for making one in G width for you, as 4 times their standard price sounds excessive. I was under the impression that their MTO surcharge was £250.

This is still very high as % of the cost of a ready to wear pair. The spanish makers Carmina & TLB both offer MTO at a much more modest surcharge than their English counterparts, perhaps you might have some luck with these?

Major Bernard Hornung

This comes as no surprise to me. Crockett & Jones supplied most of our formal footwear at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and I still have my boots and shoes from January 1976. They have lasted me for over 44 years. Perfection.

ANM

“…..Yes, I understand that. It’s just very difficult unless all the stock is in one place. We have increased production in some areas to make it easier though…..”

No.

Several retailers have had unified stock for over a decade. If it is returned to any store, it is visible, and open for shipping throughout the system. Making extra stock will just drive up inventory cost, thus tying up capital, necessitating more inventory clearance sales, and bring them closer to bankruptcy.

There is inexpensive software available for this. what they would save in inventory, and increased sales would likely pay for this software in a very short timeframe.

As many other posters have pointed out, they still seem unsure of what they are doing…..I would suggest that someone at C & J try to deal with them as a customer (search, place an order etc.) and compare that experience to almost any other retailer. I am sure it would be an “eye opener.”

My overall impression is that their business mindset is stuck somewhere around 1954.

One other take away – part of the overall product are such service aspects as availability, ease of ordering, timely delivery, etc. Amazon has long know this equation, which is why “one click ordering” is their goal, as well as a massive investment in their logistics (one day delivery), as well as inventory management to ensure the customer gets what they want, when they want it.

And as for understanding that C & J deals perhaps at a different part of the market, if some multi store watch retailers can deliver a $50,000 watch to you “Amazon style”, I don’t see why C & J can’t strive to do the same.

Great product(s), not so great company (from an operations perspective)…

Chris

One difference is that a previously returned or store-tried 50k watch will not show any signs of having lost its virginity. This is quite different for a leather shoe with leather soles; leather creases and scratches easily.
Even with a perfect inventory system it would not be clear which shoes are shippable and which are not.
If I were to order a £500 pair of shoes I would not be chuffed if I received a less than immaculate pair of shoes unless they are sale items or seconds. Various Styleforum threads show that others are of the same opinion. Then again, when I buy things in a shop I’m not too fussed if they have been tried on before as I am in the to do the same before I decide.

Kai Ellerkmann

Very good interview. I`m a C&J customer for decades and the customer service at their retail shops were always great. No matter if it was Burlington Arcade or Birmingham, I really loved the guys working there. However, I was wondering for years why they don’t have a proper online store. For someone like me, who knows his size and lasts it would be so much easier to shop a pair once in a while. Now I’m really looking forward to their e-commerce solution. By the way, I really like the good questions in this interview.

Russ

Well made shoes, but not a comfy fit if you have a wider foot like mine. I find it very frustrating that no proper MTO is available, especially for guys needing half sizes despite the big factory C&J have (I’d be happy to pay extra for MTO). Instead I routinely get offered a bigger shoe size which is no good at all. I’m about to take two pairs of C & J shoes to the hospice shop as they have never fitted properly. Give me Gaziano & Girling every time.

Peter R

Honestly, I’ve ordered from Australia via their current system of emailing and thought it was fine. In fact, in this day and age where everything is just a SKU to click and order, it was kind of nice to deal with a real person to acknowledge my order and send me an online invoice to pay. Everything went like clockwork. Friendly and professional.

I understand it’s the direction of how things are going, but with these gains there’s also incremental losses to how ‘special’ a product or brand is.

Anonymous

Don’t you think it’s a good idea to purchase more casual shoes like desert boots or split toed derbies from C&J rather than more expensive Dover’s or Shanklins and just buy more refined Footwear from EG …Oxfords,loafers etc
It might be that you think you just get that indefinable extra from more high end brands over their whole range and are willing to pay the price.

AL

This was an interesting read.

I am a huge fan of C&J’s products, but have often found it strange that they did not have a modern e-commerce option like so many of their competitors. Investing in this will be of massive benefit to the company in my opinion.

Ravi

Personally, if i’m going to spend £350+ on a pair of shoes, I want to see them, and try them on, in person, so I can understand C&J not feeling they need to expand their online sales, especially given how responsive their e-mail and telephone customer service is.

H

Kudos and congrats to C&J for winning the PS shoe brand of the year. Well deserved. I have been a C&J customer for years. Having said this, I had a quite frustrating experience recently with a C&J shipment (not their fault), which will be hopefully not an issue per se with their eventual e-commerce offering. Ordered some C&J Chelsea boots from The Rake and had them shipped to my current EU pandemic address. Quite frankly, the customs process was a mess with emails after emails besides the quite high exorbitant customs fees. I guess others might have similar experiences with UK shipments post-Brexit. I am worried this will really put great UK brands such as C&J at a disadvantage for quite some time…

George

I noticed nobody evoked the runner-ups in the comments yet.
While I think everybody knows EG and its quality quite well, what can be said about TLB?
I’ve seen a review here of the artista line but I see myself more drawn to the main line which has more derbies (they accomodate better to my high instep).
How do you guys think the TLB main line fares vs Carmina/ Carlos Santos?

Carlos

I’d imagine the reason they’ve held off from doing online for so long is because their Northampton factory would have probably worked to capacity to meet the demand of their retail stores, wholesale accounts and private label work. The last years events would have reduced orders on all fronts with so many shops being closed and less need for formal styles due to nowhere to wear them.

From experience, managing online sales from a store network isn’t as simple as you’d imagine and I can see why they were reluctant to do it. Issues I’ve seen; An online order is being received at the same time as a customer is trying on and about to purchase the item instore. Sometimes shoes are scuffed, faded or in less perfect condition from customers trying them on or from being on display. Other issues are wrong sizes or styles going back in shoe boxes after a customer has tried on 6 pairs while the shop is busy so the stock doesn’t match. These are rare instances but lead to an upset customer because you’ve either cancelled their order or the mistake isn’t picked up before the item is dispatched to the customer.

Randy Ventgen

I’ve used Ben Silver in the US for years for C&J especially country and casual styles. Also the smaller British Sporting Arms in Millbrook NY.

Randy Ventgen
Vancouver Washington

Nico

Great styles and an excellent price / value point, but as with all British RTW makers unable to offer a decent range of widths. One can see that a maker offering bespoke would be wary to cannibalise by offering that, but that would not seem at all the case for Crockett. Saying “there are some G fittings too” changes nothing, you want your choice of model in the right width, not to be restricted to a few wider or fewer narrower models.
Would likely get quite a beating from their US competitors offering up to 10 widths per size were it not for customs charges.

Scott

Simon, I’m considering buying a pair of C&J unlined chukka boots in dark brown suede. Would it be appropriate to wear them in the Summer?

Scott

Thank you sir!

Matrix.RX1

Dear Simon, any news on the C&J launch? It is now the end of the month. Thanks

Anthony

I have been a patron of Crockett and Jones for more than a decade now since my early twenties, bought quite a few pairs from them and all have been lovely, understated yet elegant when they needs to be, accessible at their price point and extremely utilitarian for everyday wearing, even under the elements.

Their mail order department has always been courteous during the past decade, and I still recall the days when they did not have a payments system where you actually needed to email them your credit card details, and once Mr James Fox replied personally to my casual email inquiry about repairs and directed me to a trusted local partner.

Dylan Welsch

Simon,

Do you find that the C&J hand grade collection competes (for value) with the likes of Edward Green or G&G. Do you think they are worth the price in a world with TLB, Carlos Santos, and the like?

Many Thanks,
Dylan