October 3, 2017
Dear Softstar Fans,
A few weeks ago, we increased the prices of many of our shoes and we have heard from some of our customers who are upset with the sudden changes and the lack of communication surrounding them. I apologize for the distress this has caused any of you and am writing this open letter (as suggested by one of our good-hearted customers) to explain why these decisions were made. We have built wonderful relationships with our customers over the years and your input means a lot to us, and to me personally.
There are two factors at work behind our decision to change prices. Firstly, we have always kept our children’s shoes priced at a low margin in an effort to keep them affordable. Despite our amazing shoemakers doing an excellent job improving efficiently making quality shoes and increasing our team size this fall by 30%, we were still unable to keep up with the growth of our customer orders and were falling behind. When we are all working our hardest and smartest possible, it did not make sense to continue to sell our shoes at impractically low costs and overwork our staff in the process.
Secondly, the costs of both labor and materials have continued to rise over the past 5 years. Oregon is one of the most beautiful states to live in and also has one of the highest wage bases in the USA. Wage bases are increasing 45% over the next few years and we have already seen sharp increases in the cost of our materials, especially with the high quality leather and sheepskin we use.
For both of these reasons we increased prices using our actual cost basis for each style (but contrary to some of the social media comments we read, we did not double the cost of all our shoes). Select adult shoe prices increased by 5-8% for some styles while the prices of other styles remain unchanged. All of our children’s styles increased by 10-20% to reflect their actual labor and material costs. The only exceptions to this are the children’s lace Classic and lace sandal styles, which have been at the center of much discontent. While it costs us almost the same to make these lace shoes compared to their Velcro counterparts, we have always subsidized these styles so we can offer an even more accessible product. For several years, they were sold at cost while also waiving the standard $15 labor fee when you customize them with your own colors. For the reasons stated above, it is unfortunately no longer practical for us to do either of these. Repricing these styles based on their actual cost, coupled with the standard custom design fee, resulted in their prices doubling. We understand that this large price change came as a shock to fans of those styles.
Due to decreasing demand of the lace child Classic and lace child sandal, and much customer feedback telling us the laces are difficult to deal with and do not work as well for children as the Velcro or elastic closures, we have gradually reduced the color options for these styles until they were only offered as custom options. In retrospect, we should have just removed them from our product line because years of input have shown us the Velcro and elastic shoes make our customers happier and overall more satisfied. These lace styles will be discontinued entirely by November.
We understand this change has been upsetting. It is never enjoyable for us to increase prices of our products. We strive to make healthy, quality shoes as well as a workplace for healthy employees. It is not our intent to try and price our customers out of our shoes, and many, many hours of conversation and analysis went into this decision. These challenges are unfortunately the nature of handcrafting a high quality leather product in the USA, and we are simply not structured to be a discount shoe store. We are always actively looking at ways to make our shoes more efficiently so that we can keep our prices down without sacrificing quality or the well-being of our employees.
Softstar is built upon our relationships with our customers. Your thoughts and concerns are important to me and help shape the direction and vision of our company.