Shoe Repair Shops and Shoeshine Parlors

SIC 7251

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This category covers establishments primarily engaged in repairing footwear or shining shoes. Also included are establishments engaged in cleaning and blocking hats.

Industry Snapshot

Shoe repair and shoe shining is a small industry that provides a moderate living for the craftsperson/entrepreneur. The shoe repairperson has survived for many years in a constantly changing marketplace but struggles to find ways to maintain a profitable business in the modern era. Those business owners who have been able to adapt to the changes in the industry brought on by improved technology, manufacturers' emphasis on disposable goods, and changing consumer expectations have survived. Those who have not adapted or who have maintained old methods of business operation have slowly vanished. Many shoe repair and shoe shining establishments are small retail stores usually owned and/or operated by a craftsperson who, with the help of skilled employees, performs services for a certain rate. Figures from Dun & Bradstreet showed that shoe and leather workers and repairers held approximately 8,000 jobs in the early 2010s, although traditional services offered by the industry have been combined increasingly with other modern amenities. Additionally, some shoe repair companies are part of a larger franchise, and shoe repair shops appeared with greater frequency in retail malls and in shopping centers, which are locations deemed essential to the survival of the industry.

Background and Development

The business of repairing shoes has been in existence as long as the shoe itself. Until advancements were made in the twentieth century, shoes were expensive and difficult to manufacture and the creation of one pair of shoes usually took the shoemaker the better part of a day. Therefore, it made economic sense to have shoes repaired rather than purchase new ones.

The evolution of the shoe repairman can be traced back to the Middle Ages, with craftsmen called cobblers. Cobblers bought old, worn shoes, which they repaired and resold. Eventually cobblers stopped selling repaired shoes and concentrated entirely on repair as a business. Concurrently, many shoemakers stopped repairing shoes and concentrated exclusively on manufacturing.

The Industrial Revolution in the United States put an emphasis on manufacturing. Shoe styles changed quickly in the early twentieth century, and the consumer, in an effort to remain fashionable, began to ignore the benefits of shoe repair. However, other circumstances began to harm the shoe repair industry. According to the journal Shoe Service, widespread economic hardships led to do-it-yourself repairs that became prevalent in the 1930s. Also, many unskilled shoe repairmen would fix and sell shoes at lower prices to retailers outside the industry. Dissatisfaction with the level of craftsmanship was also cited as a reason for the industry's difficulties.

World War II had a significant effect on the shoe industry. Manufacturers and repairers found raw materials increasingly difficult to come by, and the government urged the public to take better care of their shoes. After World War II, industrial advances made shoes cheaper. As shoes wore out, it was easier for the consumer to buy a new pair than to have an old pair repaired. Manufacturers were also increasingly using nonrepairable materials such as rubber and plastic in their products. The introduction of these innovations continually challenged the shoe repair industry.

The number of shoe repair shops plummeted by 40 percent in the 1960s. Since that time the shoe repair industry has constantly tried to find ways to combat the effects of mass shoe production, nonrepairable materials, and ever-changing fashion trends. Overall, the industry experienced a continued slow decline for several decades toward the end of the twentieth century. The number of establishments decreased by approximately 16 percent, and the number of employees dropped about 11 percent during the 1990s alone.

The consensus among experienced industry members was that the key elements to the survival and growth of the industry included the ability to guarantee quality and convenience in the speed with which repairs are made. Shoemakers, when queried about conditions in the late 1990s and early 2000s, concurred that the evolution of shoe styles resulted in designs that were effectively irreparable, because of a molded all-in-one structure that precluded heel or sole replacement. One craftsman in Grand Prairie, Texas, who was quoted in Arlington Morning News, suggested that in 2000 approximately 75 percent of new shoes were of the molded design. Another shoemaker in Colorado made similar comments and added that the high cost of service proved a further deterrent to repairs in that replacement often provided the more cost-effective solution.

In the midst of diminished demand for shoe repair, one promising technology for insole replacement emerged that employed a computerized fitting system that utilized a computerized scanner to record sole measurements, including pressure points where the footstep makes the heaviest contact with the ground. The technology enabled shoe repair personnel to fit custom insoles easily through the use of the digital measuring system at a cost of under $50 per pair. The ability of some shoemakers to adapt to such new techniques was the basis of the continued existence of this industry. Other factors for survival involved combining shoe repair service with other services and products, relocating shops into high-traffic areas such as retail mall outlets, and changing the consumer's traditional notions of the shoe repair store by means of aggressive advertising.

Current Conditions

In the early 2010s, combining shoe repair with other services continued to be one way the industry survived. For example, the franchise Pressed4Time provided pick-up and drop-off dry cleaning and laundry services, in addition to shoe repair. As of 2010, there were 170 Pressed4Time locations in 33 states and Canada.

The Shoe Service Institute of America (SSIA), founded in 1904, continued to serve the shoe repair industry into the early years of the twenty-first century. The SSIA's mission, according to its website, was "furthering the shoe repair industry by educating consumers about the physical, economic and environmental benefits of purchasing and maintaining quality footwear."

Many shoe repair shops and shoeshine parlors remained very small, employing an average of just two people, according to Dun & Bradstreet. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a median hourly wage of $11.00 in 2009 and predicted employment in the industry would fall 14 percent between 2008 and 2018. The BLS also reported, however, that those declines would be partially offset by consumers investing in more expensive leather shoes that they would want repaired along with an aging, baby boomer population that, for health reasons, would require custom shoes. Nevertheless, the industry was expected to continue to decline into the 2010s, because, as stated by a report by IBISWorld, "Generally, consumers are opting to go and purchase new products rather than repair the ones they have."

© COPYRIGHT 2018 The Gale Group, Inc. This material is published under license from the publisher through the Gale Group, Farmington Hills, Michigan. All inquiries regarding rights should be directed to the Gale Group. For permission to reuse this article, contact the Copyright Clearance Center.

News and information about Shoe Repair Shops and Shoeshine Parlors

Ponytail: A U Street Shoeshine Man's Legend Lives on -- at Least for Now
The Washington Post; November 14, 2012; 700+ words
...where he shined shoes for so many...that he was a shoeshine man of pre...a shoeshine parlor on U Street...Ponytail's Shoe Shine Parlor & Shoe Repair at 10th and...stand: in a shop that still displays...been polishing shoes in Washington...could cream a ...
Ponytail's Legend Lives on, but Parlor No Shoe-In to Stay
The Washington Post; November 18, 2012; 700+ words
...where he shined shoes for so many...that he was a shoeshine man of pre...a shoeshine parlor on U Street...Ponytail's Shoe Shine Parlor & Shoe Repair at 10th and...stand: in a shop that still displays...been polishing shoes in Washington...could cream a ...
Roving Va. Shoe Repairman Has Market Tied Up
The Washington Post; November 3, 1989; 700+ words
...into a shoe repair parlor with a multiple...The mobile shoe repair service...want their shoes repaired...at a butcher shop. "Come On...kick off their shoes. "Everything...s $3.50 shoeshines. "At first...down at his shoes. "They were...from black ...
Roving shoe man ties up the market
Chicago Sun-Times; December 10, 1989; 700+ words
...into a shoe-repair parlor with a multiple...billboard. Spiffy shoes dangle from hooks...at a butcher shop. "Come On In...kick off their shoes. "Everything...s $3.50 shoeshines. "At first...looked down at his shoes. "They were...stained from black shoe polish. ...
Downtown fixture: ; Fife Street Shoe Shop: A sole survivor
The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV); May 31, 2011; 700+ words
...Fife Street Shoe Shop. His father...work shining shoes. "Then they...Fife Street Shoe Shop is a...Fife Street Shoe Shop hangs...out a lot of shoes." He remembers...a shine or repair - stay mostly...people in the shoeshine parlor. Shines back...
Nostalgia, Specialty Skills Support New Orleans-Area Businesses
New Orleans CityBusiness; March 7, 2013; 700+ words
...opened Patina Shoe Parlor in the Garden...could get his shoes shined in time...how to shine shoes, imparting...across an old shoeshine box at an estate...asking about repairs. He has expanded...from the few shoe repair shops left in...profession, Gill's ...
Greeks voyage to `Delta' Series: 20TH CENTURY CHICAGO
Chicago Sun-Times; October 2, 1999; 700+ words
...few places, very small snack shops located near Madison Street...opened restaurants and started shoeshine and shoe repair shops, florists, confectionary and...fountain was in a Greektown ice cream parlor. Eventually, the Greek entrepreneurs...
Sole survivors Boston's bootblacks haven't lost their luster, even as their trade fades
The Boston Globe (Boston, MA); November 9, 2008; 700+ words
...or at shoe-repair shops, says...historian with the Shoe Service Institute...comprises retail shoe-repair operators...up. At most shoe-repair shops, machines have...footwear: Today's shoes are inexpensive...has run her own shoeshine business, ...

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