Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007

Not a glass slipper, but it’s still magical

Olney business is booming selling shoes for Good Counsel

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J. Adam Fenster⁄The Gazette
Shannon Gorman of Embroidery Express puts a pair of shoes on hold for a customer. Business has been brisk for Gorman now that Our Lady of Good Counsel High School is requiring its students to wear a certain type of shoe.
Back-to-school sales have been somewhat of a Cinderella story for a local Olney retailer.

Olney residents Shannon and Paul Gorman opened Embroidery Express four years ago, offering custom apparel and promotional items.

While researching the business opportunity, Shannon Gorman met with officials at nearby St. Peter’s Catholic School to see if she would be allowed to carry their uniforms.

She was granted permission, and now provides all items except for the girls’ skirts and jumpers.

As sales began to pick up, the Gormans moved their growing business from their Hallowell home to a shop at 3410 North High St. in the heart of Olney almost two years ago.

The business was doing well, but it remained manageable.

When Our Lady of Good Counsel High School opened its new Olney campus early this year, school officials became concerned with scuffmarks appearing on the floors.

That led to the decision to require all of the school’s 1,200 students to wear the same type of shoes beginning this school year. The school decided on two shoes: a Sperry Topsider or a buck-style shoe.

Because the school’s primary uniform supplier could not accommodate the sale of the Sperry shoes, the school approached Shannon Gorman to see if she was interested.

She contacted Sperry and became an authorized retailer.

All of a sudden, the quaint shop could no longer accommodate the request for goods.

To store the shoe order, Gorman installed a temporary Portable On-Demand (POD) Storage unit in the rear parking lot of her store earlier this summer.

‘‘When the truck arrived with the first shipment, our four boys came in and unloaded all the boxes,” she said. ‘‘It’s a good thing the POD had arrived, because all those shoes would have never fit in the store.”

Having never sold shoes before, she purchased measuring devices, shoehorns, nylon socks, floor mirrors and footstools.

‘‘It’s been really interesting and we’ve been learning as we go,” she said.

‘‘The biggest problem is that the shoes don’t really run true to size, so we’ve had to deal with that,” she added.

Gorman had originally placed a large order for the bucks, but since most students are opting for the Sperry shoe, she was able to cancel it and place buck orders as needed.

Another issue arose when Sperry raised its prices on the women’s shoes after her first shipment, but Gorman absorbed the difference because many of the customers had already placed their orders.

Regardless, business has been brisk.

Gorman said that approximately half of the Good Counsel students have already purchased their shoes from her, and she expects a big last-minute rush this week and next, as they begin classes on Aug. 27.

‘‘It’s been a very positive thing,” she said. ‘‘Parents have told me they are very happy to have a place to buy them so easily.”

She said that students attending other schools, where the shoes are not required, have also purchased them from Embroidery Express.

‘‘I’ve even had moms buy them, saying that they wore the same shoes when they were teenagers,” she said. ‘‘The school did a great job in selecting shoes that the kids like.”

Many of her customers who have come in to purchase shoes have discussed doing other business with her.

‘‘Selling these shoes has really put me on the map with a lot of new customers,” Gorman said.