Are Rockport XCS shoes still hiding under a rock?

The old meets the new

Back in (pre-covid) 2019 I posted an article asking where the nice things disappeared to, including where the shoe brand I have been using for ~20 years walked off to. It was 8 (now 10) years since I had last been able to buy any Rockport XCS shoes (which is the only ones I have found that give my feet proper support under the arches), and the ones I had was starting to wear out, despite repeated repairs.

After the article, Rockport did provide some information about where I might be able to buy Rockport shoes, in Oslo, London, and in the US, but not necessarily where to get the specific XCS sub-brand I am using.

When checking the Oslo stores they named, they had none of the shoes I was looking for, and almost no Rockport shoes at all, and there were stores selling Rockport that were not mentioned by Rockport. I never got around to checking the London stores, as by the time I had planned to go the world had locked down, and thrown away the key.

When I later talked to one of the stores I knew about that had previously sold Rockport, they told me that they wanted to sell Rockport shoes, but weren’t able to get hold of any from their distributors.

All of this suggests several problems regarding Rockport’s way of doing business.

Not only have they entered bankruptcy twice in the past 4-5 years, but they are not doing a good job getting the shoes out to interested stores and customers. And even the stores that are able to get shoes are apparently not able to get many.

Recently, I was at Vivaldi’s annual gathering outside Boston (incidentally, just a few kilometers from where Rockport got started, in the town of Rockport, MA) and used the opportunity to look for suitable new shoes.

Rockport did tell me that a couple of major chains, Macy’s, Nordstrom, DSW, were selling them. Macy’s was the only one that had a couple of the XCS sub-brand, but none were the right size (as they did not sell the wide size variation I need). I did locate another store that had some, but they only had two pairs, of the wrong size.

I had to resort to what I absolutely did not want to do: Buy shoes online. The reason I don’t want to do that, is that I want to see and fit the shoe before I buy it. Just call me old-fashioned.

While I did have to return one pair of shoes to Amazon because they were the wrong size (not wide enough, which would have caused blisters), I eventually did manage to get a new pair of sandals, a new pair of winter shoes, and new summer shoes (three pairs, since I decided to make sure I would have some for a while, just in case it got difficult to find suitable shoes again). The only reason I was able to manage with just one return was that I was very careful about what I ordered (and only ordered the extra pairs after testing a pair).

I think the way Rockport has been doing business is making a lot of trouble and causing lost sales for them.

First, they are no longer providing customers with an online list of stores that sell their shoes. 10 years ago they did have one, and it was searchable based on which city you were in. With proper integration with a modern sales system such a list should be able to not just tell the customer which stores sell Rockport, but which specific shoes they have in stock.

Second, they closed all the dedicated Rockport stores which were found in various major cities in the US and perhaps elsewhere in the world. These stores were where I bought most of my shoes, because they had the widest selection.

Third, the website/online store where they market their shoes has trouble listing just the XCS shoes (or the other technologies they offer), and the search shows up irrelevant shoes. It was frequently necessary to look carefully on the photos to discover if they were the right kind. They really need to improve the website search capability.

Amazon isn’t much better in the search area, their results also include irrelevant results when searching for “Rockport XCS”, and if you add “men’s shoes” (which is one of their search suggestions) you get a lot of other brands included in the results.

Fourth, they are apparently making it really hard for small Brick-and-Mortar retailers, at least in Europe, to obtain shoes they can sell to their customers. And that might actually cause them further sales losses. A few weeks ago one of Norway’s major newspapers published a story (in Norwegian) about how online shopping, especially clothes and shoes, was declining, and shopping in normal stores was growing.

The result is that Rockport doesn’t tell and doesn’t show potential customers about what they offer, doesn’t tell them where they can buy, and doesn’t tell stores where they can get wares. The “only” place you can reliably get them is Amazon (and the Rockport online store, but I don’t create new accounts at the drop of a shoe), and shoes are one of the wares that are better sold in Brick-and-Mortar stores.

The result of don’t tell, don’t show, is that you don’t sell. And neither do the stores that want to sell your wares, so they go on to sell your competitor’s shoes instead.

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