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Hit or miss - Manchester

Visiting Manchester city centre in midweek, I expected shoppers to be thin on the ground compared with the scrum I’d battled through on a visit to The Trafford Centre at the weekend.

Instead, it was bustling with shoppers, particularly on the Wednesday, when students from Manchester’s five universities have the afternoon off.

Manchester Arndale - which hosts 206 stores in the heart of the city - was full of young mothers with buggies, students, retired couples and the occasional office worker on a lunch break. It’s little wonder the shopping centre has an annual footfall of around 40 million. That’s a lot of pairs of shoes making their way through the city centre, where I was on the hunt for the best footwear offer on the high street. With Manchester’s grounding as a historical textiles hub and the city set to be home to this year’s Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, I was interested to see what it had to offer.

It can be difficult to assess footwear, as unlike clothing, shoes are usually a step behind when it comes to trends. This is particularly true of men’s, as although products do fall in and out of favour periodically, the offer tends to remain limited to a desert boot here, a brogue there and not much in between. It’s also the case that stores tend to fall into two categories: very cheaply made and cheaply sold, or well-made and more expensive.

Unlike my earlier womenswear Hit or Miss, I didn’t find many examples of shoddy materials used on overpriced items. In fact, I was surprised to see how much real leather or suede was available
at decent prices. Ultimately, then, it fell to design to determine the value of the product. Success came for those who managed to adapt clothing trends to the footwear market, such as tropical prints, monochrome or metallic. Best of all, however, were those that offered a little something extra: footwear-specific trends such as a jelly shoe, or a cut-out boot. When these were noted, points were scored.

Read on to find out which stores are setting the pace or trailing behind on spring 13 footwear.

Stores were visited on March 20 and 21.

Marks for each category are out of 10.

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