Warehouse to retail: Decades of expertise at new Bowen shop
SIXTY years ago when Des Rowe started out in the shoe industry, he worked his way from the ground up.
He helped load and unload shoes carted up to the eighth floor of his building at a time when workers in the shoe industry climbed the ranks, starting with unpacking in warehouses and then working in stores during lunch hours.
Mr Rowe said workers would then graduate to working in shoe shops to get a feel for styles customers like, then become a buyer to put that understanding into practice.
Now Mr Rowe is putting the skills he's built up over a lifetime to good use by opening a shoe store in Bowen with wife Julie.
The couple already own a warehouse in Brisbane and produce five of their own brands of shoes but their new Bowen venture, This Pair Footwear, is their first retail store.
Together, they have 80 years of experience in the shoe industry.
"Being a Queensland company we anticipated there was a market, we do a lot of sandal shoes," Mr Rowe said.
"It's not going to be easy in the market conditions.
"In Bowen, there appears to be a bit more growth there."
Mrs Rowe said the feedback for the store, located at 45 Herbert St where Kaytown Shoes used to be, had been uplifting.
"They wouldn't have a shoe shop at all so people are very positive," she said.
"There was a shop here so we've come in here to revitalise it."
It was footwear that brought the pair together almost 20 years ago, as they met at a shoe fair in China.
They originally worked in China together and then moved to Australia, but still do development for the business out of China to use Mrs Rowe's connections.
"A lot of the things we do are out of China, most shoes are made in China and a small amount in Europe," Mr Rowe said.
Mr Rowe said shoe styles had also changed throughout the years, but some had made a return.
Plain pumps, or court shoes, in every colour used to be a big hit, now there was more variation on the style as pumps could be bought with rounded toes, pointed toes and at different heel heights, he said.
"Today the heel shoes are not as popular, there are a lot of people wearing a lot of causal shoes," he said.
The pair has decked out their shop with their own brands of shoes but they plan to integrate more variety over time.
The store also offers larger sizes.
"We like casual and comfortable, comfort is number one," Mrs Rowe said.
"We have to get feedback from customers, it's what they want."
Staff member Diane Dalton said it was good to see a shoe shop open in town.
"There's some people who can't leave town to get their shoes," she said.
"They'd be hard-pressed not to like what we're selling."
This Pair Footwear is open 9am to 5pm on Mondays to Fridays and 9am to noon on Saturdays.