The Shoe Salesman: Soon To Be An Extinct Job?

shoe shopping Nelson Springer Macy's

Online shopping -- with its deep deals and sheer ease -- has won over customers.

But people like Nelson Springer, a shoe salesman at Macy's who works on commission, end up paying the price.

This holiday season, Macy's saw same-store sales increase by 2.5%, while online sales for the department store were up more than 50%.

Springer saw this play out at Macy's flagship store in New York City, where he gets an 8% commission on every sale he makes.

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During the 2011 holiday season, Springer made $20,000 in sales each week. But a year later, sometimes it took him an entire month to hit the $20,000 mark. As a result, he said his net sales dropped $60,000 from the year before -- a $5,000 hit to his paycheck.

"Shoppers are a lot more conscientious," he said. "People know what they want, and they want it for as cheap as possible, and they think the place to get that is online."

When people do come into stores, Springer said many only want to find the right size and fit before ordering online.

"I had a guy come in six months ago. I spent a half an hour with him, trying on four pairs of shoes before getting up and saying, 'Thanks, now I know what to get when I buy them online,'" he said.

Retail experts say stores are struggling to figure out how to respond.

"Companies can't figure out what to do," said Robert Passikoff, founder and president of brand research consultancy Brand Keys.

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Craig Johnson, president of independent consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, says online retailers like Zappos that offer free shipping both ways are compounding the problem.

"They take away any downside of ordering something that's not right," he said.

Some companies have resorted to cutting salespeople's commissions as a solution.

"We've seen workers see their commission drop from 4% to 1%," said Yana Walton, communications director at Retail Action Project, an advocacy group for retail workers. "That's the way this is going, if shoppers continue to [browse in stores but shop online]."

Macy's has tried to help. The company lets salespeople complete online transactions for shoppers in stores so that the customer gets the online price and the salesperson gets the commission.

But this doesn't make up for the slower sales, and Springer has to pick up extra shifts on top of his normal 37.5 hours each week to make up the difference.

A Macy's spokesman declined to comment, saying it is store policy to not discuss individual associates or compensation.

Though Springer's sales have dropped, he isn't worried about getting the percentage of his commission cut. As a member of Local 1-S, a branch of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, his hours and compensation are locked in under contract.

"I know I'm one of the lucky ones, but everyone is going to have to adapt to the changes if we want to compete," he said.

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Shoe salesmen are the reason I stopped buying shoes at shoe stores. I just wanted to leisurely look for shoes without this money hungry creep following me around. Now it's online, Walmart, or any store without a creeper lurking, and staring like a deranged fiend.

July 23 2015 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

a near by boot store charges a $50 dollar fitting fee on the high end shoes that they are having trouble with customers using them as a fitting tool (up front) no refunds if the customer decides to take that shoe it will be deducted from the sale. The other way any shoe store can reduced being walked on put a sign that says we match online price from any authorized retailer.not ebay or craigslist etc.

March 09 2013 at 1:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

That would be okay if sizes were standardized. However, every time I shop for shoes I have to try several pairs to find one that fits.

January 23 2013 at 1:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I still prefer to buy shoes in a store, but not Macys, too expensive.

January 23 2013 at 1:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We are so smart that soon you can buy everything you want on the net. And soon you won't have a job. Like some of us because of the net. Then who will have money to buy things off the net? America is its own worst enemy. Glad I have very few years left on this planet its sad to see how things have become. I feel sorry for guys like the one in this story. Hope you all get ripped off from the net as well.

January 23 2013 at 12:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I order lots of things online, shoes is not one of them. You would have yo be insane to order shoes online. I have problems when I try on shoes in the store. I do see the decline of retail sales people. Shopping from your computer is great.

January 23 2013 at 12:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Carole Ann

Shoe store for me. While I have ordered sandals online, it's only because I already have that sandal in a different color, so I know the ordered one will fit. I like trying on different shoes at a store, especially a shoe store, not the mall.

January 23 2013 at 12:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I could never buy shoes online. I'm an 11 1/2. But shoe styles vary so much that sometimes I buy an 11 or a 12, all depends on how it fits.

January 23 2013 at 12:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The only way you could order shoes, and clothing online is to try it on in store first as no sizing is exactly the same across different styles , fashions etc. Like he says, people come in, try it on , then go and order it online. Let's go one step further. This then shuts this part of the supply chain down. What do we do now? Guess, order and pay to returen. Oops, there went the savings which are probably gone anyway since we no longer have a comparison to standard retail where we can try on, return/exchange. As long as retail offers some kind of extenison of benefits/services then hopefully there will always be a place for retail.

January 23 2013 at 11:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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