Reviving this thread with my experiences yesterday. My Lobb and Crockett & Jones experiences in particular were significantly different probably a result of the different time of year. Saturday was my day-trip from London to Northampton, where I visited the factory stores of John Lobb, Crockett & Jones, Church's and Barker. Tricker's and Edward Green were closed on the weekend, and Cheaney was a 20+ minute drive away, so I didn't make it to those places. For anyone looking to make the trip, here's an invaluable resource from northamptonshireleather.com.
The full pdf can be found on their website
. My first stop was at John Lobb. Prices ranged from Â£200 - Â£300 ($300 - $475) for weird colors or house slippers; there were a lot of proper loafers (decent colors, a good amount of nice lasts) in the Â£330 to Â£400 range (including monks and double-monks), and lots of nice oxfords in the Â£325-Â£550 ($500 - $850) range. I don't remember anything being more expensive than that. Boots were around Â£500 ($775-$800), but I'm not 100% certain on that. All I know for sure is that they were beyond my 350 pound budget. Since most of these styles retail for approximately <a href="http://us.estore.johnlobb.com/
">twice</a> those prices (there's a pretty consistent 2:1 ratio for the styles I remember), I think it's a pretty fair deal. There was a great selection, but John Lobb was probably the most annoying to shop at since a) the lady there was very curt and b) everything was in the boxes, so if you don't know exactly what you're looking for, browsing can take quite a while. I think I was there for well over an hour, compared to 20 - 40 minutes at the other places. Here were some of my favorites styles: Philip II - this one is certainly unusual, but you can't deny it has character if paired with the right outfit. Not saying I could pull it off
Chester (the one I ended up purchasing) - these probably look the least impressive out of all the above in the box. But they're really something special when worn. I can't explain it.
My next stop was Crockett & Jones. Apparently their sale just got over, so they had extremely limited stock in few sizes. Nothing worth capturing; however, the pricing was pretty good, and I imagine that someone who went a few weeks ago would have found something they liked. Edit: just came across this thread and found that this was true a couple of months ago.
My third stop was Church's. No pics here either, sorry. Cramped store and harried staff, but they had decent selections. Virtually everything was their custom grade line, which I understand to be significantly better than their regular line. Discounting was pretty similar - around 50% off, with a handful of pairs on clearance with much better price breaks. I purchased a pair of custom grade patent leather loafers (admittedly with a significant flaw in the upper, although it would have been masked by the shine) to complete my black tie outfit for Â£45. I also got a pair of Church's for Jil Sander shoes (I've seen retail for comparable models anywhere from 400 to 700) at 50% or so off. I'd definitely recommend stopping here if you'd rather spend Â£100 - Â£150 rather than Â£300 on shoes. Question: when you guys say the quality has declined to 'below Prada,' do you include the Custom Grade line in that categorization?
Finally, I ended up at Barker. The Barker Black line was Â£145 for oxfords/loafers and Â£195 for boots. This seems like a solid good discount... since most of their Barker Black shoes are typically in the $700 ballpark, this around 67% off. Their regular line wasn't nearly as heavily discounted. Even with imperfections, they rarely beat 40% off. Most shoes were in the Â£90 - Â£120 ballpark, discounted from Â£150 - Â£200. But I do think that a wider selection of styles and sizes made up for it a lot; I ended up liking a pair enough to get it even though it didn't meet my high percentage-off standards
. Barker had by far the nicest store. These pics are just of their display cases... the actual seconds shoes would have been too large to capture.
Barker Black shoes: certainly a much more limited selection.
Sorry I couldn't get any closeups. This was right about the time that someone came bustling out and asking about my pictures. She didn't ask me not to take them. She just kind of asked me what I was doing. I said I just wanted pictures, was that a problem? She said no. But then she kind of stared at me, so I stopped.