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The Joy of Browsing Shoe Stores
If the thought of having to buy your shoes from the pawed-over selection at the local Megamart causes you to shudder, you're not alone. Shoes should be purchased in their natural environment, the shoe store, where they're handled properly by well-trained personnel, where you can find more than one size or color of a particular style, and where the Braddock Device -- that funny flat machine they use to measure your feet -- isn't chained to the floor.
While most shoe stores are generalists, offering everything from tiny toddler shoes to orthopedic loafers, sneakers to wingtips, the last few decades have seen increasing specialization. Some shoe stores specialize in high-dollar dress shoes, from Bruno Magli and Prada and on down; others have taken the lucrative sport shoe route, proudly offering sneakers that approach the cost of dress shoes and, in some cases actually exceed them. These are the stores you see so often in the mall, with the stores clerks dressed in striped shirts as if they were referees, and where they have constant half-price sales where the prices are still high enough to make your breath catch in your throat.
To the rescue!
But wait -- what's this? Here's a type of store where you never have to wait in line, where you can see all the styles and colors of a particular shoe in seconds, and where you can pay for what you want just as fast. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's the digital shoe store, and it's all thanks to the wonder of the Internet.
Traditional shoe stores aren't the only ones getting in on the act. While you'll find Payless and Florsheim on the Web, you'll also find specialty online shoe vendors like Zappos and Shoebuy who are only on the 'Net, as well as general merchandisers like Target and K-Mart, and shoe manufacturers like UGG Australia and Timberline who figure that they might as well cut out the middleman and sell directly to the customer. Every one of them will happily ship you the shoes you've purchased for a reasonable amount of postage and handling. All this adds up to great benefits for the customer, especially if they're willing to shop around a bit for the best price. The only real drawback is that no one has yet invented a Braddock Device that works online.
Too many choices?
If you're one of those people who can't bear to pass a shoe store by without buying something (and you know who you are, Imelda), you might want to hesitate before venturing onto the Web -- because at a conservative estimate, there are roughly 120,000,000 online shoe stores. OK, maybe that number was exaggerated a little for dramatic effect, but the truth is that there are so many shoe stores online that you should never have the excuse that you just couldn't find what you wanted. After all, you can find everything from diamond-encrusted pumps (we're not making this up) to sandals made from old tires. All you need to do is persist, and you're very likely to find everything your little feet desire.