Corona seems to be transforming Germany into a people of constant walkers: In fact, there is less walking. Shoemakers like Andreas Jagic in Obertshausen are experiencing severe losses in sales.
WWhen he leaves the house these days, he always sees people everywhere who walk a lot in the fields, forests and meadows. Much more, it seems, than before the pandemic. A people of frequent hikers and long-term walkers. But this impression is obviously wrong when it comes to the actual sole wear.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, many people simply stayed at home out of fear, and now all the ways to work are no longer due to all the work in the home office,” says Andreas Jagic, master shoemaker from Obertshausen. Most of them only wear slippers or socks at their desks at home. “The proportion of my business customers has fallen dramatically.” For his family business, which the Croatian father founded in the 1960s, this means a drop in sales of 30 percent. “That is little compared to those who no longer have any turnover, but for us it is quite a lot.” To bridge the gap, he first reduced the weekly working hours for his employee from 40 to 30 hours a week and applied for a liquidity loan.
Shoemakers have problems with their offspring
Because since the beginning of the pandemic, it is not only the soles of expensive business shoes that have become less worn. The second mainstay of the double master is orthopedic shoemaking. He also redeems significantly fewer prescriptions for orthopedic shoes. On the one hand, of course, insoles and sales increases would also be less worn out if you were less on the move. On the other hand, people shy away from going to the doctor to have new aids prescribed for them for fear of contracting Corona in the waiting room.
“Basically, our profession is outdated anyway, and many no longer see it as their future,” says Jagic. He is a member of the examination committee of the shoemaker’s guild and therefore knows that only one person passed the journeyman’s examination as a custom-made shoemaker this year. In return, five craftsmen are represented in the current master class, previously there were six. The number of trainees is also falling significantly.
Up until three years ago, he had always trained apprentices, and now he is confident of getting one again this year. His two own children have also chosen their future careers in other industries. When the fifty-eight-year-old retires in a few years’ time, he hopes the company will at least have a younger employee to keep it running.
Throwing away instead of repairing
It is becoming increasingly difficult for customers to find a shoemaker. The 116 Mister Minit shops in Germany with their 250 employees have also been closed since March 2021. The company went bankrupt a year ago, and a potential buyer unexpectedly dropped out in November.
Even if many people now consider shoes to be disposable and prefer to buy a new pair instead of having them professionally repaired, shoemaking is a business that actually corresponds to the trend towards more sustainability. “You can throw a natural leather shoe on the compost, all that’s left is the eyelets,” says Jagic. He no longer makes non-orthopedic custom-made shoes as often, but does so again and again. A pair of fine stingray or horse leather can quickly cost up to 3000 euros. The orthopedic made-to-measure shoes cost between 1500 and 2500 euros, which the health insurance company usually pays for.
He can repair any shoe, even modern sneakers, the inner lining of which often tears. Some customers are so attached to a special pair that they leave it there even if the cost of the repair is almost as high as the new price. Either because they are particularly convenient or because they are unavailable again. Sometimes, however, there are also special memories attached to it, such as the wedding shoes.
Jagic’s daily customers come from all over the Rhine-Main area. Some of them also moved away at some point. But they send their beloved welted seams by parcel several hundred kilometers across Germany or give them to relatives so that they can be made fit for the next trips in Obertshausen.