Visible demand for shoe repair

In my town there’s one guy who does shoe and leather repair: Ed Hutchins. He resoles my Birkenstocks, fixes kids’ hockey skate boots, refurbishes leather jackets. If you search the web, you’ll find two reviews of Ed’s work:

1. They do a great job repairing shoes here and just recently he did a fantastic job repairing my son’s hockey skate boot. His rates are very reasonable the only downfall is he takes his time so don’t be in a hurry to get your item back soon.

2. Ed Hutchins is a very nice man who does very good work. The only complaint I can think of is that he is not the fastest at getting work done. He does a fabulous job though and his repairs last!

Those comments appear on a number of sites: Kuzdu, InsiderPages, LocalTom. Beyond address and phone number, that’s all the web knows about Ed’s business. The comments are accurate. I’ve been waiting months for my Birkenstocks. It’s clear to me that there’s unmet demand here for shoe and leather repair. But you’re somebody who could help Ed meet that demand, how could you know about the opportunity?

In principle, the demand can be made visible. I think it was Esther Dyson who coined the phrase visible demand. In 2006 she published an issue of Release 1.0 entitled Visible Demand: The New Air-Taxi Market. The idea, which I discussed at length with DayJet’s Ed Iacobucci, is that when we use the web to aggregate demand — in this case, for direct flights among regional airports — we can optimize the delivery of services.

The same idea shows up in Eventful Demand:

1. Demand that your favorite performers come to your town.

2. Spread the word to get your friends and family to join the Demand.

3. Eventful will alert you when your events are scheduled.

DayJet was up and running until the 2008 credit crunch killed it. Eventful Demand is alive although not really kicking. (It’s unlikely that you’ve ever Demanded a performer. And I suspect it’s also unlikely that you’ve ever attended a performance at a venue chosen to satisfy a Demand.) But the idea of visible demand seems so powerful, and so right, that I hope it will play out on a broader stage.

How? That’s a $64 billion question which I hope people smarter than me are trying to answer. Meanwhile, I’ll just put this fact out onto the web. If you’re a great shoe and leather repairer, and you’d like to ply your trade in a picturesque New England town, the folks in Keene will welcome you with open arms.

7 Comments

  1. As an economist, I find this a fascinating question. Economic theory says that a “rational” business would increase the price they charged to “capture” the excess demand. But I’ve often wondered if that accurately describes the behavior of small businesses–one can think of long time popular restaurants which seem to be making money but choose not to expand, and generally seem to raise their prices only when costs go up. It would seem that profit is not their only motive. At the same time, this behavior may well be rational in that expansion can lead to a very different business environment and even failure. What is really needed are new entrepreneurs to step in and supply the unmet demand, but how do they know there’s a need?

  2. but how do they know there’s a need?

    Exactly. The “visible demand” premise is that the web will enable us to collectively inform one another about our needs.

    In a couple of conversations — one with Kingsley Idehen (https://blog.jonudell.net/2009/09/09/talking-with-kingsley-idehen-about-mastering-your-own-search-index/) and the other with Martin Hepp (https://blog.jonudell.net/2009/11/23/talking-with-martin-hepp-about-solving-the-paradox-of-choice/) — I explored the emerging notion that we can, in a collective and decentralized way, use the web to advertise services that we need as well as services that we are offering.

    The particular mechanism discussed there is an “ontology” called GoodRelations, which can be used with a format called RDFa to embed declarations of need, and offers of service, into ordinary web pages.

    If the declarations and offers are then indexed by search engines, as is beginning to happen, we can have a basis for implementing visible demand.

    There are many unanswered questions. How do we lower the activation threshold such that it’s trivial to express needs and offers? How do we deal with the spam that accompanies any open channel?

    No easy answers. But the model is very compelling.

  3. i am arepairman with 35yrs i have the know how and it take to open a shop but i dont have any money if you know ware i can get some help i would love to open a shop in your town

  4. Pingback: leather

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