Monday, 14 November 2016

Putting a Comfortable and Fashionable Step Forward

Advertorial featured in In Touch Magazine - November 2016

Robyn McLennan had always done things a little differently. At the age of 22 when many women from small country towns were “getting married and starting families,” she was buying
her first business – a mini department store in the tiny rural region of Adelong (population 1000).

Nine years later, when profits were booming, and business was great, she sold the store and dove headfirst into the previously unexplored world of wholesale footwear, selling nursing shoes to retailers across the country.

When the value of the Aussie dollar made the going too tough in the wholesale game, Robyn returned to her first love – retail. With a plan to sell shoes to country women over the age of 35 who were searching for, and failing to find, a range of footwear that combined both fashion and function in one
comfortable package, Robyn put her plan into action.

While the words "style" and "comfort" are not often uttered in the same sentence when it comes to  shoes, Robyn was once again determined to do things a little differently and fill a glaringly obvious gap in the market.

“My philosophy was that even though you live several hours from the city you still want to feel and look fashionable. And regional women like to be a bit more adventurous than the black and nude you always find in other stores – they like a bit of colour too,” she said.

Her first Easy Living Footwear store was opened in Bathurst in 2002, followed by outlets in Dubbo, Wagga, Orange, Tamworth and, most recently, Newcastle. Aside from sourcing a range of quality styles direct from Europe such as Ara, Rieker, Waldlaufer and Mephisto, Robyn also ventured into the world of shoe design, taking inspiration from what was on the market to create a line exclusive to her stores.

She now makes several overseas buying trips each year, also visiting footwear factories in China to oversee the manufacture of her lines, which is where her passion for style and comfort really comes to the fore.

“From day one I envisaged having several stores and using the knowledge I had obtained in  wholesale, I knew I could manufacture my own shoe collection specifically for country
women,” Robyn said.

“I work with family factories in China and we choose all our own leathers, we choose everything right down to the colour of the stitching, the lining and the buckle. A lot of attention is paid to the components; the foam, the type of heels we use, the leather uppers we use, they all make a little bit of difference.

“And while a lot of fashion shoes don’t accommodate things like bunions, we design with those humps and bumps in mind because we believe you can be comfortable and fashionable.”

It is this attention to detail, alongside her unwavering commitment to customer service and satisfaction, which have been Robyn’s secrets to success during her 30-year retail career. And she hopes to continue that success during her first foray into the Hunter Region. 

Easy Living Footwear threw open its doors at the revamped Junction Fair Shopping Centre on September 30 and the foot traffic through the store during the past month has been encouraging.

“The reason we came to this area was that in our other stores we’d find almost every week we’d have somebody in from Newcastle, the Hunter or the Central Coast and some people would travel up twice a year to do their seasonal shoe shop.

“That’s what gave me the idea of expanding to Newcastle. We opened on September 30, and we’ve had a great response so far. We’re not your stock standard shoe store and if people want a six-inch stiletto, then they won’t come to us. We offer people something they can wear every day – but you don’t have to jeopardise fashion to do it.”

Aside from looking good, Robyn said her customers will also leave the shop feeling great, with all staff expertly trained in shoe fitting and foot anatomy.

“I heard a customer say once ‘Your shoes are so kind to my feet!’ When I spoke to her she had driven several hours just to visit us. This is what it’s all about for me – happy customers who get so excited when they find the perfect shoe."

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