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Tuesday
Mar272012

TOMS for the Elite: Nieman-Marcus' better made and more expensive exclusive line of TOMS shoes

Last Saturday this woman walked by me in the CUTEST TOMS I've seen yet. They were metallic gold - but not sequined like the ones I've seen before. I immediately stopped her to ask about them. "Oh, they are from Niemans! I guess they have their own exclusive styles," she kindly replied with a look of worry, like I was going to physically yank them off her feet. I turned to my friend Carrie and said "We're going to Niemans."

Since shoe shopping was next on our list, Carrie didn't need too much convincing. We headed to the Nieman Marcus store in the Newport Fashion Island Shopping Center and confirmed that yes, Niemans does have a different variety of TOMS shoes than I've seen other places - and these TOMS come with at least a $30 higher price point.

Yes, TOMS for the rich. 

The thing that intrigued me the most is that while these shoes were more expensive, they also were better made. While the TOMS I own look like the rubber sole was attached with a hot glue gun, these TOMS had a thicker, more sturdy bottom that was sewn on. Additionally, these had a leather area on the bottom near the arch with the TOMS logo. While I've debated the TOMS ballet flats at Nordstrom because they seem (and feel) like they are almost made of cardboard, the NM exclusive metallic hot pink TOMS ballet flats were comfortable from the moment I slipped my foot into them. So really, if you have been wanting TOMS but are too afraid of slipping into a dirty hippie look, these are the TOMS for you. 

But this discovery also left a strange feeling in my stomach. From a marketing stand-point I understand the need to offer different retailers different "exclusive" items that fit with their brand. I don't think that $85 TOMS will sell as well at your local surf shop as they would in New York City. So why am I kinda astonished by learning about this?

I think it has to do with the integrity of the company's mission: the "one for one" concept. I would (and have) slapped down $45 for a pair of some-what ugly canvas shoes knowing that a child out there is receiving a pair in return. But $125 for exclusive Nieman-Marcus hot pink ballet flats - that's not socioeconomic trade, but pure old American capitalism. Are the women of 5th Ave too good to wear the same TOMS as the beach bums in Encinitas? Does the upper class really need their very own, specially made TOMS? And I'm sure the price difference in making the shoes this much "better" is pennies on the dollar.. so is TOMS giving two or three pairs to needy children in return for their purchase? 


 

Food For Thought

Anne, one of my oldest and dearest friend's has dedicated her life to helping others around the world. From Africa to Haiti she's been there, providing aid and medicine to those that don't have it. I asked her opinion on TOMS shoes, and her response was pretty straightforward. While aid workers will gladly take the attention and donations for any cause - out of all the issues out there, un-shod feet is actually at the bottom of the list of "issues." It's not going to matter if the child has shoes if there is no clean water for them to drink, no medicines available to heal them or no food for them to eat. While yes, they can contract illness or hurt themselves by not wearing shoes, these things are minor in comparison to what not having food, water and medicine does to their lives. 

All good points. But still, in this day and age we all like to help out when and where we can and we all love a company based on promoting social justice. Maybe that's why seeing the "exclusive" TOMS styles irked me so much. For a company that is dedicated to helping the less fortunate, doesn't it seem like by providing these more expensive and better made shoes to an elite demographic that the company is actually creating a bit of a class divide? There are way too many gaps between the "haves" and the "have nots," and I had at least (idealistically) thought that TOMS shoes crossed that divide. 

That all being said, I'm still lusting after those hot pink ballet flats. 

 

 


I welcome your comments on this. Did you know about the "exclusive" TOMS brand? Does this affect your opinion of the company, the shoes and the company's mission at all?

After posting this article, fellow blogger Lindsay Goldner pointed me to this article on TOMS shoe's being a "band-aid" that she had recently read. Great read and very relevant to the points my friend Anne made! 

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Reader Comments (12)

You should forward your post or send an email to the company and ask them... wtf?

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCharlotte K

I work at Neiman Marcus in LA. Only a handful of our Toms are exclusive. Ballet Flats are a new style for Toms and are widely available. The pink ones you mentioned are an exclusive. The others as well as the classics with the leather insoles are not exclusive to us and our price point for them falls in line with the Toms retail pricing.

March 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSri

It's not a post against Niemans at all! I actually liked the options way better. It was the overall way that I felt TOMS came across to me. I picked up 10 different ones and all had different soles and "better" {IMHO} fabrics that I had seen before. I don't doubt for one minute that NM prices are not along TOMS MSRP... my point was that they were significantly more expensive than pairs I had seen in other retailers. I'm faulting TOMS for this, not Nieman's!

March 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterHipMamaB

I'm not quite sure how I feel about this, but I do know how I feel on the other end of it. There is a store here called Last Chance, the last stop for Nordstrom merchandise before they...throw it in the dumpster? Anyway, a friend posed a question on Facebook last week about where she could find TOMS locally. I suggested some local, boutique shops that carried them and the cheapskates came out of the woodwork, urging that she pick them up at Last Chance to save a few bucks. A tidbit I've heard, from more than one source, is that these TOMS, the ones you'll save maybe twenty bucks on, do not contribute to the one-for-one business model of the company. Which, if you're asking for the a local shop that carries them, it'd be safe to assume that your intent to purchase the product is because that business model is at the forefront of your buying decision. There were some fireballs thrown and pseudo, but by all means a stretch, good points (i.e. "She can donate the difference of what she saved to another charity of her choice.").

I don't blame TOMS for catering to the demand of an affluent demographic by selling a higher quality product exclusively through Niemans. However, it'd be an added benefit, from a consumer and supporters standpoint, to know that with the heightened MSRP, comes a heightened or increased business model. Like One-for-Two on exclusive, higher price point, products.

Okay, is that enough of a sounding-off novel? ;D

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Interesting Jess! I have very mixed emotions on the whole thing. Basically, they are pretty ugly shoes. They have been made hip and cool by "being socially good." - right? I mean, I don't think they would have really caught on if they didn't have that behind them. But now they are a THING and people are buying them and wearing them as a statement... but if that statement is questioned... are we just all lame sheep following the trends? BAAAAA...

And I say this bc I FEEL this way about them. I WANT them. I'm just as much a sheep. And I want to be the sheep in the nicer NM ones. LOL

March 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterHipMamaB

Actually, going shoeless can be a huge issue, especially for those who live where there are volcanic soils. People get a form of foot disease that renders them unable to work. This woman is from my area and grew up in Africa. She has formed a foundation that works with Toms for this reason:

http://mossyfoot.com/#/home/

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuebob

Thanks! I want both sides of the story!

March 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterHipMamaB

I actually find the "cheap" TOMS fairly comfortable & have always like the "one for one" philosophy which is mainly why I buy them. Having been in the fashion industry for years I know that some companies knock themselves off (or "up" as my old boss liked to joke when they were more expensive knock offs) in order to capitalize on their own popularity. Given that they seem more well made, they surely cost more, so their profit margin may not be as much as it seems...but it would be nice to know that they were giving some of it to charity since that is what their company is known for. Cute shoes, but if I just want cute shoes I will buy Tory Burch. I want cute & socially conscious if I am buying TOMS. Just my (long-winded) opinion. ;-)

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGina Osher

I have more than 15 pairs of TOMS. I wear a pair every single day. I don't think they're ugly at all, and I find them RIDICULOUSLY comfortable. I also own a pair of TOMS sunglasses. I would be interested in what the company has to say about this. I do find it odd the NM has TOMS for $125 and while I get they are *exclusive* I would buy them if I knew how much was going to children in need... but, we never know how much is going to those in need. We never question it, we just assume that the TOMS on the actual site that we pay $54 give the same as the shoes on their site we pay $98 for. There are parts of the model we just don't have awareness of as consumers, and parts of the model many of us wouldn't understand if we were privy to them. Instead of questioning the differences within one company, how about the several brands who are popping up with the exact design and "one for one" as TOMS but much cheaper? BOBS is one of them. What the hell does that even mean? TOMS stands for all the tomorrows- BOBS is just commercialism at it's greatest.

Interesting post though and I appreciate the food for thought, but I will still wear my TOMS knowing (or at least thinking) that I helped a child. I may even bounce down to NM and pick up some gorgeous pink flats!

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe Young Retiree

I won't lie...I am lured in by the cuteness of the fancy ones. Crap. Now I want those ballet flats.

March 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSarah Maizes

I will say that I first purchased TOMS because of the style and comfort that my friend told me about. The one for one was a bonus that added to my purchase. I have since purchased 5 additional pairs and will continue to support TOMS and their initiative regardless of the price. I did not purchase because they were socially popular but because they were a cute comfortable shoe. I receive many compliments on my TOMS and always tell everyone about the company and what they are attempting to do with children in need in other countries. Not everyone is able to provide assistance to those in need and this is a way for everyone to do so.

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterErin

Thank you all for your thoughts! Love the conversation...

March 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHipMamaB

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