Want to start selling shoes online? Our in-depth guide to finding the best shoe dropshippers might be just the thing you need.
According to IBIS World, online shoe sales are estimated to be around $15.4bn in the US in 2020 – that’s a huge amount of people buying footwear online! With tons of choice when it comes to sub-niches, it’s a great idea for dropshippers.
But first you’ll need to find a supplier.
How can you tell the difference between a good dropshipping supplier and a bad one? And what should you be looking for when picking products?
We’ll answer those questions. We’ll also give you tips on testing the quality, how to establish a good relationship with your suppliers, and some good places to go to find great quality shoes to sell, such as our very own dropshipping suppliers directory.
Let’s start with a quick look at the products you can start dropshipping right away.
Shoe Dropshippers: Which Items Can You Sell?
Athletic shoes make up 30 percent of shoe industry sales according to StatisticBrain.com. This is mostly dominated by big brands, but it shows that there is plenty of demand for sneakers – so they’re a good choice for dropshippers. There are some basic types of sneakers:
- Canvas sneakers
- Authentic sneakers (like Vans)
- Athletic sneakers (for running and exercise)
- Leather sneakers
- Canvas sneakers (like Converse)
- Designer sneakers
Within men’s footwear, there are several ways you can go:
- Formal/dress shoes
- Hiking boots
- Work boots
- Slip-on shoes/loafers
- Orthopaedic shoes
Again, there’s a lot of scope here:
- Slip-on shoes/ballet pumps
- Flat sandals and flip-flops
- Winter boots
- Walking boots
- Ankle boots
- High-heeled dress shoes
- Work boots
- Hiking boots
- Orthopaedic shoes
There are a few sub-niches here too:
- Slipper shoes/booties for babies
- First walkers
- Preschool shoes
- School uniform shoes/dress shoes
- Sandals and flip-flops
What to Look for in a Shoe Dropshipper
Trends change fast, but there are ways you can keep ahead of the curve. Trendhunter.com is a good place to keep an eye on trends, or you can look for specialist publications by industry experts (this article about sneaker trends in 2020 by Sneakers Mag is a good example of how insider knowledge can help you to choose your products wisely).
When it comes to choosing suppliers, check how often they receive new stock. If your supplier is constantly getting new products, there will be a bigger chance that you’ll be able to grab onto the latest trends as they start to grow in popularity.
There are some types of shoes that are always going to be good sellers. For example, Converse sell more than 270,000 pairs of Chuck Taylors every single day. However, because they’re such a classic staple sneaker, you’re going to find tons of eCommerce stores out there selling them, which may make it more difficult to stand out.
You don’t tend to get many big shoe brands that do dropshipping – you’re far more likely to find off-brand shoes. However, there are a few exceptions. You can dropship Converse, Adidas, and Nike, amongst others.
The key here is to develop a good eye for fakes. You should avoid selling big brand-named sneakers without ordering a sample first, otherwise you might find yourself with some very unhappy customers. There are guides on YouTube on how to spot fakes, so you can train yourself up on key signs to look out for.
How are your shoes made, and are you happy with the conditions for workers? That is a big concern for some dropshippers, and it can be difficult to pin down exactly where an item has come from, especially if you’re ordering from overseas and there is a language barrier to consider. A good supplier will be willing to answer your questions, however, so it’s worth considering what your own ethical stance will be as a brand, so you can find a supplier who fits in with that.
Shipping and Fulfilment
How quickly will your customers get their shoes? Is the packaging decent enough to make sure they get there undamaged? This is another reason why ordering a sample is a good idea.
Customer Service and Returns Policy
Just like fashion dropshippers, you may find yourself with a high number of returns on your hands – it’s hard to tell if something will fit without trying it on. That’s why it’s really important that you are happy with your chosen suppliers’ return policy. Also, it’s worth figuring out how easy it is to contact someone if you need extra support. Some suppliers will give you a dedicated rep for your account, which is worth a lot in the long run – it will save having to speak to a different person each time if you have an ongoing query.
Is your suppliers’ website easy to use?
That sounds like a small concern, but over time a cluttered, annoying, difficult to use website will drive you crazy. Your supplier doesn’t need to have the most modern, minimal interface, but it does need to function the way it’s supposed to, with decent loading speeds.
Minimum Order Quantity
Some suppliers have a minimum order quantity. When you’re starting out and you don’t have many orders, this may be an issue. Speak to a customer service rep to see if they will allow you to pay a certain amount into your account to use against future transactions – this could be one way of side-stepping this issue.
Again, it’s worth choosing a supplier that will send out samples to you (more on this a little later).
Should I Choose a Domestic or Overseas Supplier?
The vast majority of shoes are manufactured in China. But should you choose to dropship directly from China, or should you choose a supplier more local to you and your potential customer base?
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons:
Domestic Suppliers – Pros and Cons
Here are the plus points of choosing a more local supplier:
- The shipping will be way faster, with more options for your customers, like express delivery
- The returns process will be quicker and more straightforward
- It may be easier to communicate with your supplier, with no time difference or language barriers to worry about
And here are the downsides:
- The prices may be higher if you choose goods that are manufactured locally
- There may be less of a choice when it comes to brands and styles
Overseas Suppliers – Pros and Cons
Here are the pros of choosing an overseas supplier:
- There will be a larger variety of suppliers, and therefore products, to choose from
- You may find that some of the products are cheaper
And here are some cons:
- Shipping will take longer
- The returns process may be more complicated
- Some products may be of a poorer quality
- It may be harder to figure out if shoes are being made ethically or not
Shoe Dropshipper Pitfalls to Avoid
Fakes and Scammers
First of all, as we mentioned earlier, you may fall for fake branded goods. There are some excellent knock-offs out there, so it can be hard to tell. Here are a couple of obvious things to look out for:
- If a pair of sneakers or designer shoes has a ridiculously low price point, it’s unlikely that you’re looking at the real deal
- The colors may be slightly off compared to the real deal
- The serial number on the shoes might be missing, or it might not match the serial number on the box or packaging
- They might just ‘feel’ cheap – they’ll be using poorer quality materials, so they won’t feel as luxurious
The other thing to look out for is an oversaturated product. If a product is wildly popular with lots of other sellers snapping them up, you’re going to find tons of competition out there, meaning you may have less of a chance of making a sale. This is where picking a super-specific niche comes in handy, but generally, there might be a bit of trial and error involved here before you find some products that sell well for you.
How to Establish a Good Relationship with Your Supplier
Once you’ve found our supplier, you will want to establish a good working relationship with them. It’s good practice to be professional in every aspect of your business, but it’s especially important here. Having a good supplier on your side may open up some extra benefits, like the possibility of being more flexible with orders, or being ‘in the know’ when new products are about to launch. This isn’t necessarily going to happen, but even so, it’s worth it just to be able to communicate with someone friendly if something were to go wrong.
You can keep your supplier happy by doing a few things:
It’s unrealistic (and maybe even unhealthy) to want to respond to emails immediately every time they ping into your inbox. But still, replying on time is a good thing. Suppliers will look upon you favourably if you respond within a couple of working days – not responding to emails can harm both working and personal relationships (according to a study by the University of Bath), so make sure you don’t leave it too long.
Pay on Time
If there’s flexibility on payment, or you owe money – pay it on or before the deadline. Late payments will leave a bad taste in the mouth of your suppliers and will make them less likely to want to collaborate with you or help you out in the future. According to this study by SAGE, there is a real impact to businesses from constant late payments, with small to medium businesses being hit particularly hard. Treating other people how you’d want to be treated is generally a good rule to stick to.
Think About Cultural Differences
You may not think this applies in the age of the Internet, with people relying more on emails and less on phone calls – but a little awareness can go along way. If you’re going with an overseas supplier, remember that their working hours will be different than yours.
It’s also worth considering whether your communications are culturally sensitive – you’re unlikely to run into any problems, but if you do say something offensive, you could potentially be doing big damage to your brand. Read this ‘Hall of Shame’ to see some multicultural brand mistakes to see for yourself …
Some Tips for Shoe Dropshippers
Here are a few things you might want to do before you get going.
As we mentioned before, samples are important. Here’s why:
- You have the opportunity to spot potential fake designer shoes
- You can see how long it takes for the product to get to you – and therefore how long it will take to get to your customers
- You can check if the packaging is of a high enough standard, and that the shoes arrive undamaged
- You can check the quality of the shoes
How do you check for quality? There are a few things you can do.
- Check the soles. This is a simple thing, but sometimes with very cheap shoes, you can spot a little of the glue that escaped when the soles were stuck on. This is usually a sign that the shoes aren’t going to last very long without falling apart.
- Check for defects. Again, this is pretty obvious, but any cracks around the edges or in the soles is going to give you a good clue about the quality.
- Check the seams. With some ballet flats or high heeled shoes, there will be a seam running down the middle at the back. Some shoes are stiff and take a while to break in – others are painful, with hard seams that are going to dig into your customers’ feet. This isn’t always easy to tell, but if you have any hard bits sticking inwards, you might have some returns on your hands later on.
- Check if they’re clean. White shoes can be hard to keep clean when they’re being made in a dusty factory. It’s worth inspecting your samples to see how clean they are – they’ll be arriving to your customers in the same condition.
- Check the materials. Do they match the description? If you’re advertising patent leather shoes, they need to really be leather (in this case, there will usually be a small tag that will say something like ‘Real Leather’ or ‘Genuine Leather’. If not, look closely – real leather is a natural product, and will therefore have some imperfections, whereas fake leather is more ‘plastic’ and uniform).
You may want to switch up your stock to suit the seasons. In that case, it’s worth researching and preparing new products in advance, so you can start to sell them just before the new season hits.
Watch Your Competitors
Consider ordering from your closest competitors. What is their packaging and branding like? How long do their products take to arrive? This will give you a good idea of what to aim for (or what you want to do better at).
Packaging and Branding
Many dropshipping suppliers allow you to personalise some of the packaging and branding – for example, they may offer to put your logo on an invoice. This is worth researching beforehand, as some suppliers offer better deals when it comes to custom packaging, with more flexibility.
How to Find Reliable Shoe Dropshipping Suppliers
There are some great apps and services out there that will connect you to reliable dropshipping suppliers. Here’s a rundown of some of the bigger companies that dropship shoes:
The AliExpress Dropshipping Shopify app is perfect for beginners. From $5 a month, you get access to a number of products in the AliExpress catalogue. It’s really fast to set up, but it may take a little searching to find good shoes that aren’t being sold by everyone else. It also has a Chrome extension, which will allow you to quickly import AliExpress items into your Shopify store.
Brands Distribution is a wholesale and dropshipping provider. They offer a range of shoes by top brands, including Adidas, Nike, Fila, and New Balance. Their dropshipping app, BDroppy, is compatible with Amazon, eBay, WooCommerce, and PrestaShop, with more integrations planned for Shopify and Facebook. A monthly subscription starts at $55.
Salehoo is a directory and market research combo. It’s a useful tool that will help you sift through thousands of products to find those that are most likely to sell. It costs $67 for one year of access.
Spocket is an app that integrates with Shopify and WooCommerce. It connects you to a range of fashion suppliers, including shoes, and they offer personalized branding for invoices and receipts. They also allow you to order sample products, so it’ll be easy to test the quality. Plus, they have a free plan.
Modalyst is a fashion-based platform, connecting you with a variety of suppliers, including big brands. It integrates with Wix, Shopify, and BigCommerce – and it has a free plan, which is a great way to test it out.
My Online Fashion Store
My Online Fashion Store has a dropshipping program, giving you access to lots of suppliers in the fashion niche – including shoes. They add new products every day, meaning you’re more likely to find great products that will suit your customers. They have integrations with a variety of platforms including Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, and more. Their plans start from $19 per month.
Chinabrands is a service aimed at dropshippers, connecting you to many products in different niches – including tons of different types of shoes. They offer cheaper shoes, so you may want to swerve this one if you want to specialise in more expensive items, but they do have a big range of products. You can sign up for free, too.
Doba is a dropshipping catalog that will connect you with tons of suppliers in a huge range of niches. They offer a free trial, so it’s definitely worth a look to see what shoes they have to offer. Prices start from $29 a month.
Another option is to access a premium suppliers’ directory. These are designed to connect you with reliable suppliers, saving you the time and hassle of searching online which can become extremely time consuming.
Our directory will link you to some of the best suppliers out there. All our suppliers are vetted, and we cover a huge number of niches (including shoes). With links to the suppliers’ landing page, it’s really quick to get going once you find a supplier you like the look of. Plus, you can search it by niche or area (or both).
Plus, we update it regularly – once you’ve paid, you get lifetime access to updates. Click here to find out more.
Now that you know where to find good suppliers, you can get started with your shoe dropshipping business right away. Finding a good supplier is hugely important, so if you can get that done first, you’ll be on the road to success.
If you’re setting up a Shopify store, make sure you check out our guide to setting up a Shopify store in 20 minutes – it’ll walk you through every step of the process!