There has to be a dollar figure at the end of the rainbow, but it’s damn hard to find out exactly what that number might be, which is further complicated by variables such as the price of raw materials, wages, transport, government duties, currency and so on and so on. Ratchet that fluctuating matrix up a notch by calculating the investment required to produce components such as rubber moulds across size runs from 6 to 14 and pretty soon your eyeballs will start rolling backwards quicker than you can say Heather O’Rourke.
So the simple answer to the question is that... it’s not simple at all.
Brands are also notoriously nervous on this subject, and for good reason. You don’t just call up the switchboard in Portland and pepper ‘em with these kinds of questions. Any discussion of price is a potential PR disaster, because it can so easily swing like a nunchukka into a very, very delicate area, one where universally held presumptions about child labor and sweatshops reside. The logic seems to be that if millions of Guangzhou grommets are getting ‘paid’ $1.25 a week to make our shoes, therefore each pair costs – I’ll say it again – a few lousy dollars.
Sound familiar? Well not so fast Wen Jiabao! This article was originally intended to answer that question, once and for all. However, the deeper I delved into it, the more my mathematical quest became a rather pointless exercise. There is no answer. I mean, there is. But there isn’t, if you know what I mean. All things considered, it’s just not possible to put a definitive price on a single pair of shoes, simply because there are too many imponderables. But I did uncover one recurring thread gleaned from industry insiders and it’s something that although obvious to some degree, you might not like to hear.
We will all be paying 10-15% more for our shoes in 2012, maybe even more.
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