Shoe company finds that spending more to ship pays

NEW YORK (AP) — JP Crickets' Italian-made loafers are made for walking, but getting them to the U.S. was no stroll in the park.

After launching the company in 2011, Susan Meyer needed to ship JP Crickets' first order of shoes from a factory in southern Italy to Atlanta. The order was for 1,000 pairs of shoes. It was going to cost the new company nearly $15,000 to ship them by air. "I couldn't afford to do it," says Meyer. She decided to ship them by sea in a container because it would cut her expenses in half. However, the shipment was delayed, costing the company more than Meyer expected.

Figuring out how to ship products from overseas can be a challenge for small businesses. Especially for new companies, like JP Crickets, that are importing for the first time. Budgets are tight and a mistake or delay can hurt the bottom line.

Meyer wanted to make the loafers in Italy because of the soft leathers they use and the craftsmanship she saw at the factory there. "Every shoe is touched by hand," says Meyer. The shoes, which sell for $328 a pair, have a suede or velvet exterior, leather interior and leather soles. They can also be purchased with a college logo embroidered on the top of each shoe. They're sold on JP Crickets' website and in some Brooks Brothers stores.

When the shoes arrived in the U.S., Meyer wasn't allowed to pick up the shipment right away. It turned out that the shoes were sharing a container with gelato, and whoever sent it didn't have the proper paperwork to pass the Italian ice cream through U.S. customs. The government wouldn't release any of the contents of the container, including the shoes. They were stuck in a container with gelato for two weeks. "I was worried the gelato was going to melt on my shoes," says Meyer.

The shoes weren't damaged, but the delay still hurt the company. They didn't come in time for the prime holiday shopping season. Meyer had to cancel two events where she planned to debut and sell the shoes. Instead, she waited a few months to hold events closer to Valentine's Day, another period when customers are more willing to spend. "The cost to produce the shoes, store that inventory for a few months, and carry it on my books without sales until the next busy selling season is costly," says Meyer.

Meyer learned her lesson. She now ships the shoes by air. She works with a major package delivery company. They also take care of all the U.S. customs paperwork. Meyer says the extra cost is worth it.

"I get my product quickly," says Meyer, "fresh and just made."



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