Closure of our Melbourne Showroom; and Future Directions
Our bricks & mortar store at Smith Street, Collingwood, closed on 16th June, 2019. As of that date we are trading only on-line.
The store was established in August 1995 and quickly became something of an institution in Melbourne, being Australia’s first dedicated vegan shoe store, and subsequently becoming the first and only place where vegan footwear was manufactured locally. It was feasible to set up a manufacturing unit in the latter half of the 1990’s because, as a result of our government’s free trade policies, local factories were closing up or re-locating to Asia. Second hand machines could be picked up pretty cheaply, and there were plenty of people trained in the factory environment who were being retrenched and were looking for work.
However, those two circumstances were only temporary. Soon all the factories were gone – meaning no more cheap machines, few local suppliers, fewer and fewer mechanics specializing in footwear machinery, and an almost non-existent trained sector workforce. From about 2015 things started to feel too hard and we concluded that we would need to transition to a different business model. We finally closed our manufacturing unit in June 2018, and a year later the shop was closed.
It probably wasn’t inevitable that the workshop and the retail showroom would close. Had the business been able to grow to a larger scale, with a unity of purpose, things may have been different – maybe. However, as it happened, the company directors were ideologically divided – one remained fiercely loyal to the notion of exclusive local production, and the other advocated at least a partial transition to overseas manufacture. There were persuasive arguments in favour of each approach, but the sad outcome was that in the absence of a clear shared vision insufficient thought and effort was devoted to securing our future under either or both paths. Various windows of opportunity opened and then closed and we were not adequately prepared to make the best of these.
In 2015 we decided to phase down local production and the workshop was finally closed three years later. And as time passed it became apparent that our overseas manufacturing capacity was not sufficiently diverse or evolved to support a single stand-alone retail operation. So the decision to close the showroom quickly followed.
For the time being we will be selling down existing inventories. Later we will be releasing a new range of shoes and boots manufactured overseas to our detailed specifications. Hopefully these will be the best vegan shoes yet!