Nobody's asked for my opinion, but I thought I'd share a couple thoughts on the high-end ready to wear shoe business.
As the world's become a smaller place, the remaining ready to wear shoemakers have seen their home turfs invaded by by makers from other parts of the world. England's Edward Green does the largest share of its business in Japan. France's Pierre Corthay is in New York's Bergdorf Goodman, and Hungary's Vass is out, at least for the time being.
The challenge each of these makers faces is that there aren't enough competent retailers to go around, and the ones that exist already have lines. A new stockist that can deliver volume comes around perhaps once every five years, so expansion becomes a zero sum game. For Gaziano Girling or W. S. Foster to get shelf space, another maker loses some of his. Yet none of these companies, or the dozen others that I haven't mentioned, has attempted an end run yet.
First, invest in a set of fitting shoes for each major market. They should encompass every last, and every size in the product line, and if that's too expensive cut back the breadth of the line. A maker can't sell shoes until the customer knows what size he needs.
Pierre Corthay Ready To Wear in Paris
Second, set up a web site that includes a visual of every model on every last, in every leather, and with every sole. Describe the differences between choices like Dainite and Ridgeway soles, for example, because there won't be a helpful sales professional available to your customers when they order. Take orders on the site. And go out of your way to over-communicate order status by email. Acknowledge the order, provide an expected delivery day, and then provide periodic updates during the months it takes to make the shoes. Once the software is working, email is free anyway.
Then put bar code scanners and digital cameras at a couple major stations on the production line so you can take work in process photos and send them to a database. Give each customer a login on the web site where they can see their shoes as they are being made, and keep a record, of course, of the shoes in each customer's inventory. The first company to do this will have customers posting pictures and praise on every clothing forum in cyberspace.
Since customers are freely providing their contact information, a maker going down this road has a free method to proactively communicate trunk show dates, new models, and other useful information that leads to ongoing relationships and repeat orders.
I submit that the first maker to adopt a system similar to this one will sell a lot more shoes because they'll be making life easier on me, and shoe loving customers around the world.