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Children's shoe pop-up is pure magic

The Magic Shoe Shop, currently a pop-up, is run by Emma Gervasio (left) and her sister Harriet Gervasio. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Magic Shoe Shop, currently a pop-up, is run by Emma Gervasio (left) and her sister Harriet Gervasio. Picture: Keith Heppell

Sisters offer youngsters 'from traditional to bonkers!' range

The Magic Shoe Shop is planning a series of pop-up events across the region over the next weeks – and has already had approval to sell directly into primary schools.

The business, started by sisters Emma and Harriet Gervasio, emerged – like all the best entrepreneurial ideas – from identifying a deficiency in the existing models. In this case, that was in retailing shoes.

“For babies up till 12 years, we’ve got what people want,” Emma Gervasio explains. “For school shoes it pretty much goes up to adult sizes – it’s up to a 40. The bulk of orders we get are a 38 or a 40.”

The sisters began strategising the business 18 months ago when they were living in London, in the trendy Muswell Hill area. They moved to the area for the green and the schools.

“We were both shocked at the lack of children’s shoe shops,” Emma explains. “Most people buy online, or when they’re away on their holidays – there’s a lack of choice on the High Street.”

Unlike other items we wear, shoes need to be tried on, and part of the reason for this is that shoe sizes are not uniform across the industry.

“Different brands size their shoes differently. They’re not a million miles apart but they are all different.

“Size is a starting point – you need to try them on. Eighty or 90 per cent of our sales are face-to-face.”

The Magic Shoe Shop will be at the Michaelhouse Cafe in Cambridge regularly over the summer (the next one is on May 19), and has visits lined up at primary schools from Cambridge to Northampton. There’s also children’s markets in Ely, Eltisley and Milton, with others to follow. The ‘Magic’ range includes sandals, trainers and summer shoes – but keep an eye on the website. The stock is changing all the time.

“Shoe buying is really cyclical,” says Emma. “We’ll be selling school shoes from July. Everyone buys their school shoes for the autumn in the summer. Right now it’s about summer sandals, in September/October it’ll be winter shoes, and we have the most amazing collection of winter shoes coming out for then.

“I’m really excited because we’ve got five amazing brands on our list. Everyone who’s seen our stock loves them. They go from timeless traditional to really bonkers, which is really amazing, but what parents want from school shoes is that they’ll last for a year at least, and the kids want something that looks cool and isn’t too clunky. With our range – Petasil is a Portugese design, Froddo is Italian – we tick both boxes.”

Other suppliers include New Zealand brand Bobux, described as “outdoors lifestyle shoes”, and Shoesme – “from the Netherlands, the quality is stunning and they look incredible, the girls shoes have sequins and prints” – plus French brand Babybotte.

It’s an impressive start for the sisters who get extra Brownie points for doing their research.

“We did a SurveyMonkey poll and had all sorts of responses. In one, a store wouldn’t sell shoes to a disabled child because she couldn’t stand up.

“In the short term at least we’re making it easy and fun to buy shoes for youngsters – parents find it stressful so we’re making it a positive experience for them. The average price of our shoes is £40 to £50, which may be more expensive than the High Street but we have all sorts of discounts.

“We’re not in the Sports Direct market at all, but we’ve always got offers on as we don’t want to price people out. Once people see what they’re getting they tend to want them, and they’re all made by factories that trace the leather. Ninety per cent of our shoes are leather inside and out.”

The Magic Shoe Shop will also donate a percentage of its turnover to The Shoe That Grows, a US-based charity that sells a shoe – especially suitable for the developing world – that expands as your feet grow.

The sisters are training as professional shoe fitters via a course at the London-based Society of Shoe Fitters.

“We’re learning how to fit shoes properly,” says Emma, “and about how they fit the foot. Children’s bones aren’t solid until the age of about 17 so they have to be careful – feet are really delicate.”

The Magic Shoe Shop is still a mobile pop-up shop at the moment. Emma is a management consultant, and Harriet is an early years advisor at the Cambridgeshire Education Authority, but even so they’re looking for premises to develop the business.

“We hope that by this time next year we’ll have a site in Cambridge next year,” concludes Emma.

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