Sizes and design

Hey guys.

I was out with my younger brother this weekend helping him find some new sneakers, and he said something that made me think about design and the market place.

He tried on a pair of pumas. His normal size is 9, but they only had an 8 or 10 in stock. Anyway, he bought the 10 because they fit well and on the way home asked me why both pairs of shoes cost the same. The 10 clearly has more material, is heavier etc… I couldn’t come up with an answer as to why this is, apart from that it would seem unfair and be confusing to consumers if different sizes have different prices.

I was wondering if clothes are the exception to the rule, and if shoe designers design for a specific size and then the design is compromised on the other sizes. Obviously a size 14 version of a shoe designed at size 9 or 10 is going to lose it’s proportions a bit and possibly some of it’s style. Also, are the prices of sneakers adjusted to compensate for the extreme sizes or is the material price not really an issue.

I am working designing taps and valves out of brass and aluminium and the associated die cast tooling at the moment and our prices are mostly based on the amount of material used in the part, the amount of material required for the tooling and the amount of labour involved in cleaning them up.

Material difference is minimal. The reality is they’re still common sizes, so mass production them makes common sizes cheap. Now if you go to odd sized shoes like size 3 or size 15, you can see the dramatic price increase because they’re not as mass produced as the more common sizes. Through marketing it makes more sense to try to make them all the same price, average out material costs for all sizes rather than how much material costs for each sizes. Advertise a shoe for $60 instead of $55-65 depending on size, makes it simple for the buyer…

Feels good to have been fleecing shoe companies for years with my size 13’s.

Except for some commodities, cost and price are mutually independent.

Cost is determined by engineering.

Price is determined by marketing and ultimately what the market will bear.

The only relationship between cost and price is margin.

Cost is also determined by material quantities and labour.

Ergo larger product = higher cost and if sold for the same price = smaller margins.

It may be a few cents for each shoe, but there must be a difference.

There is, but the point is, the market dictates that there be no difference between a size 5 and size 12. I’m not in the footwear industry, but I would venture to guess that your pricing is based around an average size (7,8,9?) so that your costs are covered for the majority. You sell less (and therefore manufacture less) very small and very large shoes anyway, so it all works out.

Now, infant/toddler shoes on the other hand… that seems like the market to be in. $40US for some little Nike’s that last 4 months before their outgrown? Crazy.

Mens shoes are designed in a size 9. After the pattern is confirmed it’s scaled to the other sizes.


But again, price is determined by what the market will bear. Cost is irrelevant except for determining margin.

As soon as you have a direct link between cost and price for the consumer, your brand is no longer a premium and becomes a commodity. I don’t know of a single manufacturer who wants to be considered a commodity.

The whole thing is an interesting philosophical question, and while a size 13 might cost a few pennies more to produce, is it justified to charge someone more, to penalize them in effect for being a bigger size and reward them for being smaller. You open a physiological can of worms.

And as GURU wrote:

They are also costed at size 9 and they have this down to a science. They know the distribution of sizes (they are not evenly spread, way less size 13’s)and how much to compensate.