Almost as soon as I started this site, I also started receiving lots and lots of emails from people who were desperate to find a particular pair of shoes which they’d fallen in love with, only to discover that the shoes in question were last year’s stock, and sold out long ago.
I always feel bad for these people: I know only too well what it’s like to set your heart on something and not be able to find it, no matter how many times you type the product name into Google, and I really wish I was able to help them find those special shoes they so desperately want. I feel doubly bad, though, because the fact is, I can’t help them: unfortunately there is no magic place that shoes go to when they sell-out (Oh how I wish there was!), so if you’re looking for a certain style and can’t seem to find it, all I can do is point you in the following directions:
If the shoes are a designer brand…
… you have a much better chance of finding them. As well as checking the designer’s own website and the usual shoe-selling suspects like Net-a-Porter and Zappos Couture, you can also check out the larger department stores: if you’re in the US, that would be Saks, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdales, and if you’re in the UK, you’re going to want to hit up places like Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, etc: basically anywhere that carries high-end shoes is worth checking with if you’re really determined to find those shoes.
If the shoes are more than a season old, however, you’re probably going to draw a blank with these sources: I mean, let’s face it, if it was that easy, you wouldn’t be reading this, would you? So it’s time to check out some websites which sell past-season shoes. Step forward The Outnet, Yoox.com and Overstock.com.
If you live in the US, and have an outlet mall near you, you might also want to try Neiman Marcus Last Call and Saks Off Fifth: I’ve seen some amazing bargains in both outlets for high-end designer footwear, most of which is past-season stock. Larger outlet malls will also often have outlet versions of other stores (Betsey Johnson, Aldo, Michael Kors, to name but a few), which are always worth a look.
If all else fails, look up the designer’s head office on Google, and put in a call. It’s a long-shot, but if you ask nicely, they may be able to help you track down what you’re looking for, or at least tell you which outlets or department stores stock their brand.
If the shoes are a high street brand…
… you have a much tougher job on your hands. Some high-street shoe brands do sell their footwear through department stores: for instance, Miss Selfridge, Dune, Faith, Kurt Geiger, Carvela, LK Bennett and more are stocked by stores like Debenhams, John Lewis and House of Fraser, while in the US, you’ll find brands like Nine West, Jessica Simpson, Steve Madden etc in stores like Macy’s. This obviously isn’t an exhaustive list, though, so the first rule of thumb when trying to track down out-of-season shoes is to contact the brand directly. As with the designer shoes, above, they may not be able to produce the shoes you’re looking for, but they will at least be able to tell you which retailers carry their line, other than their own stores.
With other brands, however, you’re not going to find their shoes anywhere other than in their stores or on their website. Brands like Topshop and River Island fall into this category: you will ONLY ever find their shoes in their own stores, so you’ll need to proceed straight to the Last Chance Shoe Saloon, aka eBay. If you’re not sure whether the brand you’re looking for is stocked elsewhere: contact them – you’ll find their head office details on Google.
Another option for high street brands is the off-price retailer. In the UK, this is currently pretty much limited to TK Maxx (TJ Maxx in the US), but in the States you also have Marshalls and Ross for Less. Some people turn their noses up at these stores, and it’s true that they can feel a bit like a jumble sale, but I’ve had some amazing shoe finds in all three of them, and often spot shoes from past seasons which I’d long-since forgotten about. Here in the UK, I frequently find Dune, Faith, Moda in Pelle and Steve Madden shoes in TK Maxx, and I’ve spotted Nine West, more Steve Madden, Paris Hilton (the shoes, not the socialite) and more in Ross and Marshalls.
For both designer and high street, and when nothing else has worked…
… try eBay. I seem to spent a lot of time replying to emails about out of stock shoes with the words, “Dude: eBay“, but I’m going to say it again: eBay. (No, I’m not on commission.) When you’ve exhausted all other options (and actually, maybe even BEFORE you’ve exhausted all other options), eBay is your best bet when it comes to finding shoes that are no longer available anywhere else. Yes, you will have to hunt for them. You might have to wait for weeks, or even months, before a pair comes along in your size. You will have to compete with other people for them, and if they’re a very sought-after style, you may have to pay more than you bargained for – sometimes even more than the original retail price if it’s a very iconic shoe. You may even have to settle for someone else’s cast-offs.
When you’re absolutely desperate to find a certain pair of shoes that are no longer available through the usual channels, though, eBay is your last chance of finding them. Over the years, I’ve had a fair bit of success with finding shoes on eBay, some of which were styles that had sold-out long ago, but which turned up on eBay unworn and still in their original box: one woman’s unwanted gift is another woman’s pair of dream shoes, it would seem, and this is why I currently have alerts set up for two pairs of boots that I really should have bought when I seen them in the store. One day I will find them. Probably. And if I don’t find them? Chances are I’ll find something else I like just as much.
Anyway, I hope this post will be of some use to those of you who come to me with past-season shoe quests, and will also go some way towards explaining why my answer to those questions is almost always going to be “eBay!”. If you have any other suggestions for places that stock older styles, by the way, please feel free to add them in the comments!