From Post to Paperless (4 minute read)
Grab a moment and enjoy this little trip down memory lane. In this blog, Georgie (the owner of Willow Shoes) shares a bit of nostalgia - what it was like to create a seasonal shoe catalogue – a big and important part of getting Willow Shoes connected with women with long feet!
The catalogue is part of our history…when I started Willow Shoes it was the main way to share the long shoes with a small, but growing mailing list of customers. Even before I opened the first store I relied on the catalogue and the shoe tour to help women with long feet find shoes that would fit and they could love. It’s over ten years since we produced our last catalogue but looking back, I’m reminded of the time and effort it took to get one ready for print and how far we’ve come since.
Summer 2002 catalogue – these Morrow Taylor sandals were very popular!
Are you someone that remembers the catalogues? Did you collect them? Maybe you’re one of those customers who tell us they still have some of them – reminding us just how much it meant to find shoes for longer, bigger feet.
So much has changed about the way we reach out to customers since Willow Shoes started. Back then, it was all about asking for a postal address and a fax number. Getting an email address was less common and building a following on social media hadn’t even begun! A lot of people didn’t own a computer. Access to the internet was by dial-up, a level of technology most young people have never used! This makes us feel we’ve been around forever – but it’s just what’s changed in a few short years!
For the first 10 years of Willow Shoes, one of the biggest moments was the creation and delivery of the seasonal shoe catalogue. Each year an Autumn/Winter and a Spring/Summer catalogue was created and delivered to letterboxes all around New Zealand. The day the catalogue landed in your letterbox was cause for excitement! It was a ‘moment’ and many of us saved opening it until we knew we wouldn’t be interrupted! 😊
The first catalogue cover featured a sweet little pair of metal shoes. They were given to me by one of mum’s enthusiastic friends and they inspired me to do something different every season.
Creating the Cover
I love the creative process. I always began with the one big question…what will be on the cover? It was about conveying a sense of excitement. It was about sharing a growing range of styles, brands, sizes and colours. It was about sharing the excitement of shoe choices after a lifetime of very little choice. One year knitted winter boots were the cover feature. Another year I put two, very cute and very lively puppies into green shoe boxes.
Spring/Summer 2002 featured a foot of pink rosebuds
In 2005 the excitement was all about LONG PINK SUEDE BOOTS – just having those four words in the same sentence was unheard of for women with long feet! I covered the boots in jewels and positioned the boots in a tall vase to look like a flower arrangement.
Photographing the Shoes
For ten years we produced a catalogue two times a year! The photo shoots were always fun - we would shoot all the shoes for a catalogue in one day. If I didn’t have a sample, the shoe didn’t make it into the catalogue. The images were then saved onto a couple of CD’s! Needless to say, digital cameras have made life a lot simpler!
Getting the Catalogues into the Mail
It’s amusing to remember inviting friends and family to help me stuff the catalogues into envelopes and stick the address labels on. This job was easier and more fun when shared - but we lost some speed after I offered my helpers a glass of wine! 😊
I would load up the car with the trays of catalogues all sorted alphabetically and drag them into the Post Office. It was a relief when I finally reached the Post Office ‘1000 envelope’ bulk mail minimum…meaning I no longer had to stamp the envelopes as well. Omitting just one step in the process was a time saver.
Embarking on a Nationwide Shoe Tour to the Towns…
The catalogues also revealed the shoe tour dates - when we visited New Zealand towns twice a year at ‘pop-up’ venues. We loaded a trailer to overflowing with the shoes and boots, hooked it onto the car and drove around New Zealand. This provided an opportunity to try on and buy shoes. At each venue, we were greeted with customers clutching their catalogues. There were purposeful and hopeful looks that conveyed the desire to ‘at last, try on some shoes that fit’.
Loaded up and ready for a nationwide shoe tour
From Paper Catalogue to Online
Willow Shoes had a website right from the beginning and by 2006 we offered online shopping. At the time this was a long way ahead of many footwear and clothing businesses. Digital technology continued to become more and more a part of everyday work and life. Eventually we called it a day on the catalogues. We all remember that day and making that decision. It was like saying goodbye to a favourite friend.
For a time we sent postcards to tell everyone about the new arrivals…but there was no stopping the increasing demand for information via the internet.
Postcards from Spring/Summer 2011 and 2012.
Early examples of our website...tempting you to browse the new arrivals
We treasure the few catalogues we have left. We thumb through them and have a giggle…and they remind us of some great times in those early days when we were getting Willow Shoes off the ground.
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