YOUR MONEY: Consumers turn to cobblers, tailors to repair itemsWith the dreary economic outlook not changing anytime soon, not as many people are leaving malls carrying shopping bags. Instead they are turning to shops where cobblers and tailors are fixing shoes or altering clothes already in the closet.
By: Mark Norris, The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS - With the dreary economic outlook not changing anytime soon, not as many people are leaving malls carrying shopping bags. Instead they are turning to shops where cobblers and tailors are fixing shoes or altering clothes already in the closet.
All of that new business is keeping some stores busier than they have been in years.
"Shoe repair has blown up," said Brooke Wilson, who started coming in last fall to help her boyfriend, Alex Livschitz, at Alla's Alterations & Shoe Repair in Frisco, Texas. Wilson estimates that business has increased nearly 75 percent since last summer.
"We tried to see if there were any other shops that need any other work because we were overwhelmed," she said. "But no one was willing to do it. They were just as busy."
Cobblers are experiencing an increase in business as consumers have forgone Jimmy Choo-induced shopping binges and clamped down on spending.
"I can't find another pair of boots like these," Joan Kennedy said, waiting to pick up her newly resoled shoes at Alla's. "I'd rather not have to find a new pair."
Business at Kosta Dino's Shoe Repair in Oak Lawn, Texas, has been up since the holidays, with a noticeable increase in luxury brands like Prada and Gucci being dropped off by new customers.
"They say they might as well get them fixed," said Francis Lopez, who has worked at the shop for seven years. "In a busy day we get 50 people or more."
Expensive clothes are also getting reworked at tailors.
Harry Papas of Harry's Tailor Shops in Dallas said more customers have come in to get suits refurbished and refitted rather than purchasing new ones. Women are bringing in skirts and dresses to be repaired.
"Across the board - men's and women's apparel," said Papas, whose business is up 20 percent since October.
Wilson said some customers have brought in name-brand apparel purchased at outlets that doesn't quite fit and asked to have the garments tailored to save money.
"It's a lot easier to have changes made here," said Torrie Naron, who brought in pants and skirts to be altered.
Peter Qian, who runs Unique Tailor in Old East Dallas, said the large number of clearance sales at stores shutting down has helped boost his business. His customers tell him the deals are too good to pass up - even if the clothes don't fit them exactly - with merchandise marked down as much as 80 percent.
"I notice a lot of new customers," said George Nikolopoulos, owner of The Cobbler in North Dallas. "Phone calls asking where I'm located."
The increased business comes at a time when the number of cobblers continues to shrink across the nation.
Around 7,000 shoe-repair shops are estimated to exist in the United States, according to the Shoe Service Institute of America, the shoe repair's industry trade group. It can take as many as four years to learn how to be a cobbler, and most shops are family-owned businesses with few employees.
"This is a trade that's slowly dying. ... There's no interest," said Nikolopoulos, who added he is lucky to have six people working at his shop.
"But they're trying to save a buck and search and find us."