How to make pre-orders work for your shoe brand

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Lauren Stowell – Co-founder and CEO of American Duchess about how pre-ordering works for her 10 year old online shoe business. You can watch the full ‘Pre-ordering and crowdfunding for your shoe brand’ masterclass when you join The Shoe Community but here are a couple of key takeaways.

Making your first pre-order sell out

During the masterclass, Lauren told me “We did our first pre-order/crowdfund in April 2011 and it funded overnight.” If you want to ensure your shoe brand pre-order is fully funded in a matter of hours, read on! Here’s how Lauren achieved this goal:

“I was a blogger before I was a business person and I was blogging for at least a year if not a little bit longer…so I had built up a little bit of a community. I had a Facebook page that was attached to the blog. I think we had about 2,500 followers…and I was very public about wanting to do the shoes…and when the shoes came out it was just one style…and people were anticipating it and they were excited about it and they knew it was coming. They knew the price, they knew everything and there was that trust that was built up because of the blogging, because they felt like they knew me, because they knew the process and that’s what led to the successful pre-order funding overnight.”

I always recommend that shoe brand founders build an audience before they have shoes to sell. In fact there is also a masterclass about ‘Building an audience before you have shoes to sell’ in The Shoe Community. This works particularly well when you have the added hype of a limited pre-order period to increase the feeling of urgency in your customers.

Pre-order vs. buy now wear now

In the masterclass I asked Lauren “Do you have pre-orders on everything or do you have a ready-to-wear collection and pre-ordered products?”

Lauren told me: “So when we drop new styles, we do a pre-order. Our pre-orders are two weeks long and we have a $20 off incentive just for that time and it causes a spike in sales. So the rest of the time we do carry stock. So when that pre-order ends we’ll do our order with the factory. We order usually about double whatever we’ve sold and then we’ll carry that in stock.  Then when we run out if it was a good style, if it sold through quickly we’ll reorder it but we won’t necessarily put it on the website again for pre-order. We’ll wait for it to be delivered. There’s a case by case basis there. So sometimes like if we’ve stocked out completely and a reorder is being manufactured we’ll put it available to order while it’s being manufactured just to get some cash flow going but typically people will wait you know for…’cause there’s no price incentive during that time. So then we do carry stock but it’s really vital that we look at if something’s actually selling through well. Just because it’s sold out, doesn’t mean that we should reorder it. Sell thru is really important. But yeah new styles, new designs, lots of buzz, lots of excitement, we’ll do a pre-order every time.”


Lauren shared many more pre-ordering tips during the masterclass including:

  • How long customers will wait for a pre-order
  • The biggest pre-ordering mistakes Lauren has made
  • The essential elements to making pre-orders a success for your shoe brand.

If you would like to watch the full 1hr 20min video and get access to many more masterclass recordings, future online events and a community of motivated shoe brand founders, we would love to welcome you to The Shoe Community.

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Susannah Davda

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