When Colette Glover-Hannah’s daughter, Elois, was 6 years old, she was wearing size 6 women’s shoes. By age 11, her feet had grown to a size 11. Shoe shopping excursions became increasingly frustrating and contentious as the two struggled to find and agree on suitable styles from the adult department.
“It was extremely difficult to find something age-appropriate for Elois, a young girl who just happened to have large feet,” Glover-Hannah said. “We would drive all over the place and shop several counties and stores looking for shoes for a particular occasion or event. Our options were either very basic ballet flats or 4-inch heels — there was nothing in the middle — and I wasn’t willing to give in and buy those mature styles for my fifth-grader.”
After a year of research and conversations with parents facing the same challenge, Glover-Hannah launched Hannah’s Shoebox, an online store catering exclusively to tween girls with bigger feet. Now in its fifth year of business, the Tampa, Fla.-based e-commerce site, which ships throughout the U.S. and Canada, features casual, dressy and school-ready styles in sizes 5 to 13. “These are shoes that other stores carry, but we’re bringing them all together in one place — aggregating them, if you will — to make it convenient for parents. We’re providing a one-stop shopping solution,” said Glover-Hannah.
Elois, now 17, helps curate the assortment for Hannah’s Shoebox, relishing the opportunity to assist other girls grappling with the same struggles she faced as a tween. With an eye on affordability, the site offers all the styles for under $50. “Kids grow fast, so we want to keep our prices reined in,” Glover-Hannah noted.
Research indicates that Hannah’s Shoebox is tapping into a growing market niche. Due to such factors as improved nutrition and health, children today are taller than previous generations. They are also developing and entering puberty sooner, which means they are reaching their full adult height — and shoe size — at a much younger age. Just a generation ago, fewer than 5 percent of girls started puberty before the age of 8; today that percentage has more than doubled, according to Louise Greenspan, M.D., and Julianna Deardorff, Ph.D., authors of “The New Puberty.”
In the shoe industry, however, this segment of girls has been starkly overlooked, according to Glover-Hannah. “When I first started shopping the trade shows and talking with potential vendors, they were shocked to hear what I was doing. No one had thought about having a store just for tween girls — let alone larger-size girls. But I knew there were many frustrated mothers and daughters like us out there.”
Indeed, testimonials continue to stream in from customers thrilled to have found a shopping destination tailored to their needs. “We had one mom tell us that she lets her daughter come on our site and pick any styles she wants, that she no longer has to look over her daughter’s shoulder while she shops. She knows that whatever she chooses will be appropriate,” said Glover-Hannah. “That makes me feel good because that was my whole intention in creating this site. Shoe shopping should be fun — no one wants to see their daughter upset because there are no styles for her.”
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