In a highly competitive retail world, it’s an ongoing battle to stand out in the crowd, but as TORI HERON discovers one Canberra shoe store is giving customers a service unlike any other.
COBBLER Milton Vassiliotis took over Civic Shoes from his father 17 years ago and to keep the family business in a league of its own, he’s embraced new technology that combines 3D foot scanning with traditional shoe making.
Taking a different path in making custom shoes and becoming Australia’s first cobbler to do so, he believes it has enabled the family to build a solid retail presence for luxury shoe buyers.
Since the day two years ago when three Chinese investors walked through the door of Civic Shoes in Bailey’s Arcade and offered him a lead role in the project, Milton knew it would be a worthwhile investment.
“It was developed out of Hong Kong University and was the first of its kind,” he says.
“Of course, I had to spend money to start, and then I went to China to check out the factory.”
By the end of the trip he had a signed business partnership.
“I have not yet found any competitors using this technology and it’s taken my business to a different level,” he says.
A laser scanner takes 52 measurements of a person’s feet from ball girth, foot width, foot length and toe shape, down to the tiniest details such as the size of a toenail.
The data is sent to manufacturers in Hong Kong and, after refining customer choices of colour, texture, finish or engraving, it takes four to six weeks to have the one-of-a-kind pair arrive. Using Italian leather, Milton believes the quality is exceptional. The price of the shoes typically range from $350 to $2000, depending on style and choices.
“We provide this service for men’s and women’s business shoes, wedding shoes and even orthopaedic,” he says.
While he’s the lead cobbler in the project, there are hopes to expand to 100 stores over the next few years, with two outlets in Sydney already signed up.
Milton says his customers were mostly “people who can’t find the style they want, but we cater to any strange-sized feet and those with foot deformities.”
Since beginning the service, he has processed about 280 orders.
While his father embedded the love of shoe making into him, it doesn’t stop with providing the perfect product.
“First of all, for me, it’s customer service. I will give all of my passion to serve a customer,” he says.
“And when people come back, they are placing a second order”.
The introduction of 3D foot-scanning technology has paved the way for Milton to give his clients a fit that many others don’t provide and he vows to have others recognise that “it really is a piece of art”.