August 3, 2018

Nine West Gone South

Well, it's been a minute. Having taken a week off work for a staycation, I thought I would finally have more time to hunker down and blog. But of course, me being me, I scheduled myself full this week and haven't actually had a single day at home.

Today, however, I am here.

I have many things I'd like to catch up on, but the most recent of them is the bankruptcy of shoe retailer Nine West. In April 2018, Nine West filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States, and shortly after, began the widespread shuttering of its American and Canadian stores.


To say I was surprised would be an absolute lie. For years and years, Nine West stood out like a sore thumb (toe?). It attempted to mingle with the likes of Aldo, Town Shoes, and Call It Spring, but realistically, it was the awkward mother trying to fit in with her daughter's friends. There was something indescribably off about Nine West shoes. They appeared almost too stiff, as if their designers tried to sketch out the perfect shoe, but in the process, ended up trying too hard to draw within the lines. What I didn't see when I looked at a pair of Nine West shoes was the innate talent of someone who knew how to make a good shoe.

Nine West straddled an odd line between classy and trendy. It would take classic silhouettes -- stiletto pumps, ballet flats, penny loafers -- and plop on one or two crazy elements. Pumps fully covered in a floral print. Black flats with enormous bow ties. Loafers in metallic pink leather. Conceptually, I think Nine West was aiming to make quintessential shoes more unique and interesting -- good on them for that. In execution, however, they failed to rope the design elements together into a cohesive shoe. Like blindly pinning a tail on a donkey, the final result was disconcerting.


I never had the desire to walk into a Nine West store because in the few times I did venture through, I left feeling thoroughly uninspired. In light of its bankruptcy though, I decided to give it one last chance. I visited multiple stores over the course of a month, revisted the same stores in case the inventory was refreshed, and willed myself to find one, even just one, pair of shoes that I might consider buying. And yet I still came out with nothing.

Having monitored Nine West so closely for a month, I realized how poor the quality was relative to the price. The majority of footwear was made from synthetic materials and lacked the soothing lines of a well-shaped shoe. I picked up a few items, but as soon as I tried them on, they looked ungainly. The toe box was too wide, too stunted, too curved...the shoes just didn't look natural on the feet.


Nine West's bankruptcy only served to remind me why I never shopped there. In some ways, you could say it is sad to see so many giant retail chains closing down, but frankly, I think consumer spending speaks loud and clear when it comes to identifying which stores are underperforming. If you don't sell what people want, the truth is your space can be better utilized by someone else who does. The constant refining of the retail landscape is an inevitable response to the way of the world as defined by you, by me, and by us.

Image Source: Butterboom, BMG, Coloribus

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