Though the Restory’s fate is sealed, allegations of missing purses remain a topical concern.
The Cobblers, which took a 50 percent stake in the U.K.-based repair clinic The Restory, liquidated the company on March 22. Selfridges and Harrods are among the creditors. Though The Restory is no more, the aftermath of a shuttered repair business is that goods could still be held up. Some 850 items were returned to their owners as of March, as the liquidation filing noted.
An estimated seven or eight items are “still in progress,” per Warren Barthes, cofounder of The Cobblers.
Regarding the decision to ultimately liquidate the U.K. repair pioneer, Barthes said: “We discovered that the business wouldn’t have been profitable, so we decided not to invest any more. I believe there is a future for repair in the U.K., but for us — not now.”
The Cobblers is navigating growing pains as well as backlash of its own from customers online including delays, many seemingly unresolved. Per one April Yelp review from elite reviewer Benjamin A. from Santa Ana, California, progress updates are limited. He claimed, “Sent my shoes to repair on September 2022. [The Cobblers] won’t reply my [messages], shoes were sent to a local cobbler in SoCal, and they say that have no response from him. Won’t give me the contact of this cobbler. I could go personally to see what’s happened. No response in the last month from the cobblers.com chat.”
Along with a new inbox feature and a redesign of the customer accounts page, The Cobblers noted changes in communications after recent customer feedback. Some comments across social platforms like Instagram, Yelp and Reddit alleged months-long delays in goods or items not being returned at all. The Better Business Bureau revoked The Cobblers’ status in December 2022 following a series of customer complaints alleging items sent for repair were not “returned by the promised date.” A class action lawsuit is underway and to be filed within the next 30 days.
“Clearly, we do have lost items,” Barthes said, clarifying that these “lost” items are either repairs ultimately still “in progress” or “not paid” by the customer. “The number one lost category at UPS is luxury and premium goods,” he claimed. “Items could be lost, but we do not have that any more than any premium company.” (In 2020, researchers at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute estimated 1.7 million packages are stolen or lost every single day in the U.S.)
“First of all, we’re in business. We’re a marketplace. We provide technology for artisans,” Barthes said. Once a customer has paid for their order, then the artisans send the goods back to customers. He said artisans operate as contractors similar to a Uber or AirBnb model. “We don’t have the items. The artisans have the items.”
Today, the business has about 300 artisans across the U.S. on its platform, with 20 employees (after a recent staff reduction).
The Cobblers’ Instagram account currently has comments deactivated across all posts. Its latest post, from May 14, described some policy changes: “Dear Customers, We are consistently improving our platform to better serve our customers. If you would like to track an order, submit a picture for a quote, or simply talk to the artisan assigned to your order please use your New Inbox located at the bottom of our mobile website.”
Per Barthes, The Cobblers made those policy changes to “better answer” communications between customers and artisans, only intervening in the event of a delay because of the artisans.
The Cobblers said it has processed more than 60,000 orders, citing an uptick in demand over the past 24 months. Barthes said last week alone, The Cobblers sent 600 finished repairs back to customers and is growing its artisan revenue, business growth unrelated to The Restory liquidation.
“Our core business is to build an amazing platform for artisans and our customers. We’re here to repair the closet of our customer, and handbags and shoes represent the majority of that.” He added, “Now, we’re focused on being — not an investor — but a start-up.”