Shoe Repair Companies Are Heading Online

As more consumers rely on technology and mobile phones to manage their lives, shoe-repair businesses are going online, too.

Several companies, particularly in urban markets, have unveiled apps to drive sales.

In Chicago, tech startup Shoe Drop enables registered users to select the service they want — from replacing soles to a shoe shine — via an app. They can then leave their footwear at any registered Shoe Drop location around Chicago. Many are within residential high-rises and offices in the downtown Loop area or at a neighborhood dry cleaner. The company says it is adding about 10 to 15 additional locations a week.

The shoes are picked up and worked on by a team of cobblers at the company’s facility downtown, then returned to consumers at the location where they left them.

Shoe Drop garnered buzz for its app by launching a mobile shoe-shine and shoe-care business first. The firm visited Chicago-area office buildings for a few hours each week to build buzz and brand loyalty, according to execs.

“My experience was that you walk into a shop that’s off in a corner in the dusty basement and there’s a graveyard of shoes behind the counter … and you don’t really ever know the cost or timeline,” said co-founder Duncan Davis. “We started Shoe Drop as a tech-enabled way to make shoe care more accessible — and make it a part of people’s routine.”

In New York, Cobbler Concierge debuted this spring. Jim’s Shoe Repair, a local business owned by the Rocco family, teamed up with Cobbler Concierge founder Pettrus Randall to evolve from a traditional retail model to being a completely digital and e-commerce business.

For a flat fee, customers send their shoes by mail to the company’s Long Island City, N.Y., repair facility, where craftsmen photograph the entire process and share it with followers on social media. The company has a luxury focus, offering repairs on Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci and other high-end labels. “At our core, we are skilled craftsmen. Technology and logistics are just a way of supercharging that. The technology enables us to give our customer transparency and reliable service,” said Randall.

Some shoe-repair businesses are diversifying in ways beyond technology-driven initiatives. New York City’s Leather Spa will launch a home-visit service in the fall and expand with a second Manhattan storefront at the World Trade Center. It’s also revamping and relaunching its website.

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