Footwear Retailer of the Month

August 2017

I started selling shoes in our shops at 12 years old!  Following University I furthered my education and became a chartered accountant.  After having enough of accountancy, I worked in corporate finance for an investment bank.  After doing that I felt I’d rounded my skills and took the opportunity to join the business when we acquired several of DE Shoe’ stores in 2013.

We’ve got 9 shops located all over Scotland and have approx. 50 staff.  Our staff turnover is good and nearly all changes are due to personal circumstances changing which unfortunately, cannot be helped.  The area we cover is vast in terms of size so tastes vary greatly, there high demand for patent and “bling” in some areas and welly boots in others!  Being the only shoe shop on two Islands means we are the go-to shop for all age groups in some locations.  It makes buying challenging at times but is certainly interesting.

Our website – www.beggshoes.com – is going from strength to strength after launching in 2014.  Social media is important to us, we’ve got all the common social networks covered

We’re finding the footwear market challenging.  Some areas are performing better than others but no doubt customers are spending less on their shoes and are fussier than they have been in years gone by.  We feel political uncertainty combined with the oil crisis are the cause of this.

We’re still quite early in the Spring/Summer season and the forecast is for snow so sandals haven’t moved much yet for us.  Seasonal colours in trainers/casuals have been really strong as a transitional product.  Best performing brand for us has probably been Clarks.

I am a member of the SSF and we now have 10 qualified shoe fitters in the business with another 4 currently going through their qualification.  We believe having staff that can advise a customer on a professional level is an important point of differentiation for us over our local competition and obviously, the internet.  Our hope is that customers will value our expertise and advice and keep returning to us for their shoes.

We’re very much focused on selling shoes these days.  Accessories are nice add-ons but can be time consuming to organise effectively.

Thankfully my father is a computer programmer so has built our own bespoke EPOS system – it makes life nice and easy when we want to change/tweak something!

Acquiring several DE stores has brought exciting changes for Begg shoes, representing a move in the right direction but it has also came with new challenges.  Managing the larger staff team and ensuring they are aligned with our values and trained to deliver excellent customer service has been a challenge but something we continually strive to improve.  We have a great team working for us and with the recent growth of our management team we will continue to work closely with our team to ensure we offer the best possible experience to our customers.

Keeping control of stock levels is key for all independents and when volumes go down, you’ve got to make sure you do not try to buy your way out of the problem.  We’ve seen a lot of businesses get into trouble because they are buying more than is required.

Men’s – personally I like Ecco for their comfort & durability. Fashion wise they could improve but they do have a few good looking styles.

Women’sWonders – beautiful shoes made with love in Spain!

KidsPrimigi – they are popular with parents due to their quality and value and the styling is standout.

We use a mixture of statistics, personal views and memory of good styles (& the bad!) to decide what we want to add to each shop.  Feedback from our staff is also an important factor we take into account.

We used to attend GDS but now go to MICAM as well as MODA.   We use Riva del Garda for sourcing MTO product.

Steve (Heavenly Feet/Nordikas) – he presented the full range to us outdoors (minus 5 degrees!) in the middle of a Scottish winter – hardcore shoe selling!  Alan Bulloch is a good man but hasn’t braved the cold yet so doesn’t win! Sorry Alan!

I’ve got a lot of shoes and have been brought up from a young age speaking about shoes over the dinner table!  My favourite pair are brown suede Ara chukka boots that are very comfortable and look good with just about anything.

I believe Lorraine Kelly and Tilda Swinton are customers

My younger brother has just joined me in the business as we continue to bolster our management team in Inverness.  We’d like to expand further down south, potentially in Scotland or England, but would prefer to grow through acquisition rather than opening new stores.  Online growth is part of the strategy but it is a highly competitive market where Amazon are dominant and profitability is poor.

Q&A with Donald Begg
Footwear Retailer
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