The price of Chucks

I've loved wearing Chucks ever since my dad bought me my first pair of low top Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars in beige when I was seven years old.

The healthiness of wearing these shoes might be debatable; I've owned at least one pair for the last 15 years and my feet/knees/hips are very healthy. The quality of these shoes is also debatable, but I've learned over the years that if I don't wear them daily—which I rarely do with any shoe—a pair of high tops will last 1.5 years before they need to be replaced (e. g. fall apart).

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star

All in all they're dependable shoes that I know what I'll get out of.

What I hate though is the price, or at least the markup this particular brand/model of shoes carries in Europe. To illustrate:

  • I bought two pairs of high top Chucks in a sports store on NYC's Time Square in 2009 for the regular price of ~ € 35,–
  • I bought the pair pictured above for € 42,– on the internet in 2011
  • A regular pair of high tops goes for breathtaking € 65,– to € 70,– in German retail stores, and—oh wonder—you won't find them cheaper in brick and mortar stores in almost any town in Germany. If you think collusion is in place here, you might be right.
  • During a few trips to eastern France in the last couple of years I've seen that they usually go for € 65,– to € 75,– over there as well.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, I lived in Beijing, China for a while and there I bought genuine high top Chuck Taylor All Star shoes for—hold on to your hats—a mere € 12,–. How do I know they were genuine? Well, I was able to compare the pair I had just worn out to the new one, and they were identical down to the last stitch. I approached the store owner and she told me that even at this price she makes a decent profit off of them.

I'm of course not saying that German retailers should offer them at Chinese retail prices, but think about this: even considering shipping costs and intermediaries the online retailer I bought a pair from three days ago (they'll arrive tomorrow) still gets a profit margin of over 200% out of them.

Certain types of brick and mortar stores are dying in Germany—shoe stores that don't perform well in six months usually disappear—but when I see a markup of 450% and more compared to what I paid in China and 50% to what I pay online, I don't see how I'll ever buy a pair of sneakers in a regular store ever again.

Alex Hoffmann @mangochutney