Meet the owners behind CooShoo: the independent children’s footwear specialists, based in Kings Heath.
After realising Birmingham was suffering from a shortage of children’s shoe shops, Anna and Mick Swift knew what they had to do.
In 2014, they decided to open a brand new, vibrant and unique store to fit the bill. 2017 saw an enormous growth of indie high street stores around the country. Data released by the Local Date Company LDC and British Independent Retailers Association found that there was increase of 762 shops nationwide.
On the contrary, chain retailers including Debenhams and House of Fraser have rapidly declined in recent years. Debenhams PLC released a statement on March 14th saying they’re considering a proposal from Sports Direct relating to a £150m unsecured loan. Is this the end of store chains?
Anna, who has a background in children’s health rather than retail, gave me the lowdown on her successful family business.
Where did the inspiration come from for CooShoo?“
“We have two children and finding decent shoes for them in Birmingham was a nightmare. As a result, I was having to travel back up to Yorkshire where I’m originally from, simply to provide my children with cool, well-fitting shoes! Realising there was a gap in the market for an indie shoe shop for kids, we then began our research.”
How long did it take you to set up the store?
“We spent a lot of time researching the business prior to opening, for the reason that my background isn’t actually in children’s shoes! I had no idea about retail, which meant we spent three years researching the market and how to set up a business like this, because it’s a lot of investment, so rushing into it wasn’t an option. We didn’t open until April 2014, this is our fifth year!
How is your business doing?
“The first few years were difficult. People didn’t seem to trust us to measure at first and would go to Clarks for that, then come to us for the shoes! Due to my background in children’s health, we’ve developed links with Birmingham Children’s Hospital, so we fit a lot of children with health conditions with their feet. That’s one part of the business we weren’t expecting to grow. Above all, we’ve been expanding our online business, and now we’re selling overseas to customers in Germany, Spain, Italy and France predominantly.“
What makes indie stores so special compared to chain retailers?
“We have a really tight group of staff, who are all well trained in fitting exceptionally well. They spend a lot of time with each and every customer when doing a fitting. We also get to know them really well. Children will come in here, have a play and get their shoes checked. We’re just a very welcoming and friendly environment. Regardless of whether a purchase is made, children will always get a balloon when they leave. Certainly, it’s just providing that additional service that I don’t think you get at other retailers.”
Why Kings Heath?
“If there hadn’t have been lots of other independents in this area, with people willingly coming to shop in these stores, things would have been a lot different. Without the legacy of indie shops in Kings Heath, we wouldn’t have received the amount of business we have.”
What are your future plans for CooShoo?
“Long term, we’d like to establish at least one if not more, stores. I thought by now we’d have another, but that hasn’t happened! I didn’t think we’d sell as much online as we do. So whilst the idea of another store is definitely on our agenda, there is a lot more potential for us online than what I thought there was.”
Whilst it’s often difficult to run an independent store in a world of online shopping and larger retailers, CooShoo has proved to be a great success.
For more information on Anna and Mick’s store, check out their website: https://www.cooshoo.co.uk
Located on York Road, Kings Heath, CooShoo are open 9-5 every Saturday and open at 9.30 on weekdays and Sundays.