2021 Update: LISSOM is back. And not only that, the founder is paying me back in monthly installments the affiliate money I am owed (see below). When I have received all my backpay for affiliate sales, I will update this post completely.
LISSOM sent me two pairs of their shoes since the brand came back in 2021. They are exactly the same as my original LISSOM flats – same materials, same fit, same fit, and support.
While I share below a negative experience I have had with LISSOM, I do find these flats to be extremely comfortable and high quality. Over 2020 I made an effort to feature more small brands, especially those that are owned by people of color and women. This experience gave me more empathy for small business owners, including the owner of LISSOM.
There is a difference between having a great idea and being a great business person. And usually, a person isn't both creative and business-minded. A lot of small businesses fail because of this fact, or are bought by big conglomerates and their creative idea gets diluted or changed completely. I believe the founder of LISSOM had a genius product concept but struggled to grow as her business gained popularity.
She could have easily moved on, but she took the time to meet with me on Zoom and schedule regular payments to pay me back what is owed from LISSOM flats I sold based on me wearing and reviewing the product. I really respect this, and understand how she ended up in the situation she was in.
While I still have my experience from 2019 below, I want you to understand that when you purchase from a small business, it won't be the same experience you have when you shop Amazon, or Macy's, or even an individual brand like ELOQUII or Eileen Fisher. Very often that business is run by one individual who is in charge of marketing, production, shipping, returns, customer service, and more. That person may have a staff, but the small business owner is the entire C Suite and HR department while also putting on other hats on a daily basis.
If we dismiss small businesses because they can't perform at the levels of multi-million dollar corporations, we stop innovation. We prevent any small business from growing. I don't believe one should lose their money to support a small business (hence me keeping this review up until I am paid), but I do believe in having some grace and empathy. And to remember that we have enough in our closets; anything we order may feel like a need but it is truly a want. And good things come to those who wait.
A reader placed an order with LISSOM in 2019. After weeks of no contact, she reached out to LISSOM and was informed orders were backed up for the holidays and her shoes would ship in January. Then at the beginning of January, she received this email:
“We are writing with an update on your recent LISSOM order. We sincerely apologise as it has come to our attention that some orders placed by customers over the recent holiday period have not been delivered. I regret to inform you that LISSOM has now ceased trading and has instructed liquidators Wilson Field (UK based).
In light of this unfortunate situation, it is important that you contact the payment processor that you made a payment with (either PayPal or your credit card company) to claim back funds you have paid for any order you have not received. We understand that several customers received tracking numbers for orders that were fulfilled during this period but that these orders have not been received. Please also contact your payment provider to claim your refund, as we are now unable to trace the whereabouts of these packages. For any other enquiries, please contact liquidators Wilson Field on the following email address: [redacted]
We are deeply disappointed at this outcome and apologise sincerely for the inconvenience caused and frustration that you must be experiencing from this situation. We send a heartfelt thank you for your custom and support of LISSOM over the past two years, Lissom Ltd.“
I wish I could say I was surprised by this email, but I am not as I too had problems with LISSOM in 2019. I bought my first pair of LISSOM flats in 2018 with my own money to be able to do an unbiased review. The brand saw how I wore the shoes a couple of times on the blog and linked to them asked how we could work together. I told them I was already writing up a detailed review to publish. If my readers bought LISSOM flats from my unpaid honest review and liked them as much as I did, we could then discuss paid collaborations.
I asked if instead they would set up an affiliate program so I could make money off sales instead of a sponsorship. I directed them to Refersion, a company I have recommended to other small businesses to set up an affiliate program and manage promo codes. I wrote my review in January of 2019 which was at this URL, sharing my honest thoughts and using the promo code and affiliate links they created for me.
Almost immediately, readers began contacting me about delayed deliveries and issues with orders. I forwarded them to my point of contact at the brand. In February, the founder of LISSOM emailed me directly:
“We have run into a slow patch with fulfilment the last few weeks due to 1) a huge amount of orders being received on the back of Well + Good article just before your post and 2) Chinese New Year (our fulfilment centre was closed for a period of time and also there is a large backlog of orders for them from their other customers as well to send out before the New Year). Despite repeat assurances that all parcels would be sent out on time by our fulfilment team, there have continued to be delays and we have been told that the remainder of parcels have been fulfilled over the weekend and today (but are awaiting tracking information for some orders).
I apologise sincerely for these delays – I can understand how disappointing this is for you to recommend a product to your readers and for them to encounter these delays and inconvenience. We have updated information in accordance with the information our fulfilment company have passed to us, so it has been frustrating that they have kept changing the information that they have issued to us and in turn we have had to change the information we have passed to our customers . I am working on a solution to ensure that this does not happen again – after our pre-orders delay last year it has been so important for me to re-establish our reputation for delivering on time – so that customers can concentrate on how comfortable our shoes are instead of when they are going to receive them. I am disappointed about this temporary setback but very much focused on solving the issue going forward and am ensuring that we have the optimum capacity to fulfil in the coming months.
I also wanted to let you know about a project I am launching and which I'd really like to have your feedback on. We get so many emails every day from women with wider feet wanting to know if we have a specific fit for them. As you know, we have been saying that because our shoes are stretchy then they can take their normal size. But I have always wanted to do a specific wide fit shoe because I think that there are some alterations that we could make that would truly suit the needs of a wider foot – e.g. a little broader arch support, a slightly deeper toebox etc. I think women who have wider feet are tired to always be told – just go up half a size – knowing that they won't ever get the right fit. So I plan to launch the wide fit campaign on Kickstarter by sometime in April.
The reason we can't just launch the wide fit immediately is because the cost of developing the shoe and the molds is expensive – so we thought – why not get the women who need the wider fit to help fund our campaign (they will get the shoes at a discounted price to what we normally sell them for on our website) and in the process they will help many other women to be able to access our wider shoe fit as well. I'd be really interested to get your thoughts on this and speak in more detail about this project.
Is there anything I can do to help you and your readers with the inconvenience of the delivery situation? I am so keen to get their shoes to them as soon as possible and we are so appreciative of your and their support.”
I emailed back the next day letting her know once the orders were resolved and my customers were cared for, I'd share the shoes again on the blog and YES I was interested in working on a wide fit option. I didn't hear back.
Near the end of April, I heard back from my original point of contact at LISSOM. She shared she sent a commission payout to my PayPal for the current sales and that it was her last day with LISSOM. She said the reason was that she was moving and notified me that the founder would be my point of contact from that point forward.
I reached out to the founder at the beginning of May 2019 desiring another pair in a different color to style. The founder said she'd send out a pair and we scheduled a call to discuss ideas for the future of LISSOM. We had a great call, discussed what you readers thought of the brand, I shared ideas on what I thought would be good ideas (I suggested the brand carrying a range of skin-toned shoes from ivory to a rich brown and go that route instead of the wannabe sneaker route of some of the line).
The founder followed up with an email thrilled with the feedback from our call and asked me to fill out an extensive survey in exchange for $100. I filled it out and sent it back June 3rd with some ideas on fellow influencers I felt would be a good fit for reviewing and promoting the brand.
June 30th I followed up asking when I would receive my PayPal payment of $100 for the feedback, how I still hadn't received a payout from the affiliate program, and again asked for that additional pair of shoes.
I followed up again on July 9th. On the 26th I finally heard from her. She said she was, “…in the middle of closing an investment and also have an ill [relative] (and trying to hire additional team members to share the load!).” I didn't hear from her again until the end of August:
“May I start by offering my sincere apologies for lack of contact. I am incredibly grateful for our relationship with you and I have high hopes for what we can achieve together in future. Thank you so much for completing the customer profile information – it was great and incredibly helpful. I am still in the middle of closing this fundraising round (which will allow us to launch so many more colours and very importantly – wide fit!!!), getting the next production finished (so we have stock to sell) and also my [ill relative had an update].
I couldn't get Refersion to work, so I've asked [the old assistant] to help me find out the total owing to you. She'll be able to take a look it at in the next week or so. Meanwhile, I will send you $1,000 immediately in the meantime whilst I await the total figure. I need to pay this from my bank account rather than Paypal though – could you please send me your account details and I will wire the funds. Two more things:
- Could we please schedule another call. I am interested to work with you more closely as I mentioned on leading referrals to other bloggers in your network. I'm trying to work out how this role would look and the payment structure and some input from you would be really helpful.
- We are launching a waiting list for wide fit. Could I please ask for your permission to use your images that appear on your post (the ones in the blush Flytes) as I love them and think they'd look great. We are posting this as an ad to generate sign ups to our mailing list so in this one instance it might be difficult to credit you. But would be so wonderful if we'd be able to use them. Thank you.
Look forward to speaking with you again. Also please let me know if there's any shoes that are currently available on our website that I can send you. I know I was meant to send you some more shoes but we've been sold out. So if there's anything else I can send in the meantime, please let me know. I'm anticipating being back in stock in about another 6 weeks max.”
I let her know I would rather wait for a payout from Refersion as it would be better for bookkeeping on my end and I'd love to set up a call. We scheduled a date for a call, she never called. I followed up by email. Nothing. Followed up, nothing. October 9th I sent an email stating,
“I am mentioning LISSOM in an upcoming post and would like to feature LISSOM in upcoming outfit posts. I want to make sure all is well so I'm not promoting a brand that isn't delivering. I know this may be a very busy time, but I'd like to reconcile my affiliate commission and when you have time, catch up on how LISSOM is doing and what I can do to help with the next phase.“
She replied two days later stating she was in China dealing with production and wanted to chat the following week. I didn't hear back from her until October 24th stating, “I haven't forgotten about you and you have been much on my mind. Trying to get our investment closed and have just been in China. We will have a full shipment of stock arriving early next week (but 3 weeks until our next shipment of socks which are currently sold out). It's great to be moving forward again.”
The next call never happened, and no payouts had happened either. If you're keeping track, I also never got paid $100 for my brand feedback. I began emailing her every week, totally hoping to be a pain in the ass. I now was owed thousands of dollars in affiliate revenue and didn't know if I should delete all mentions of the brand or if things were okay. My emails were always pleasant but firm.
On November 21st I received an email from the LISSOM brand, the kind they send to customers and it was the first communication I had received to show the brand still existed. I emailed the founder: “Just got your brand email about the 10% off and that shoes are back in stock. That is fantastic. I still need my money, I have sold over [redacted] pairs of your shoes and haven't sold any recently because I don't feel confident promoting a brand that isn't paying me commissions. Can you please get back to me, and if you are having trouble with Refersion, they are really great with customer service. I look forward to hearing from you very soon.”
That email actually got a response, and one same day:
“I totally understand your position and I was about to write back to you. For several months I've been on the absolute edge of getting our funding round closing alongside my [relative being ill] and it's frustratingly just not quite over the line yet (fingers crossed by year end). I'm so sorry that you've had to chase this with me. You have been an incredible supporter of the brand and you are very much appreciated though I know it doesn't feel like it right at this moment. I'm sorting some interim financing and I'll make a payment to you next week. It might be for half next week and then half the week after, but I will advise you at the start of next week exactly when you can expect them. I completely understand that it is the holiday season and that you need this income and will work hard to get it to you asap. Thank you so much for your support and understanding.”
I never heard from her again. December 23rd I reached out to Refersion directly, desperate for a payout for the thousands of dollars I was owed for the many many shoes I sold through my blog. Refersion CCed the founder and said they were sorry but there was nothing they could do and they recommended ceasing all promotion of LISSOM.
It was on my to-do list to just delete this post and any mentions of the brand this weekend when my reader sent me the email she got about the liquidation and how LISSOM took her money without a pair of shoes in return. I couldn't delete this post, I had to turn it into a warning.
It's unfortunate it ended this way. I truly loved the shoes, as did many of you who ordered the shoes because of my review. I only heard of the brand because of a reader, only ordered them because they sounded like shoes you would like. I thought they were a supportive, comfortable, and cool-looking alternative to Rothy's flats, which weren't as good for wide feet or those who require inserts.
I don't think the founder expected things to turn out the way in which they did, which is why I am not including her name in this article. Businesses fail, it happens on a daily basis even to brands with great ideas and great products. My anger comes from the lack of communication. I have been in difficult situations, financially and emotionally and personally all at the same time. I know that feeling of drowning, of wanting to hide. But when you put yourself in the situation to be a leader or an owner, you lose your ability to stick your head in the sand.
I want to apologize to all who may be affected by the liquidation and had your funds taken without a product in return. I wish I had control over it and could pay you all back myself. It's unfair and a crappy way to have to start the new year. These weren't cheap shoes, I didn't go into this review lightly, I only did it because I really thought they were worth the money.
Fun fact: LISSOM is an old English word that means flexible, nimble, agile
This fun fact is from my original review, which I have now deleted. As a blogger, I have learned to be flexible, nimble, and agile. This experience is just one example of what goes behind the scenes for those of us in my job to create the content you see and to receive payment for our work. It may look as though all we do is go to Starbucks, Soulcycle, and Trader Joe's and receive free stuff at our front door. It's much more than that. Like most entrepreneurs, we get burned quite often but we try to learn from those experiences and use them to become more agile.
If I ever find a shoe that is similar to LISSOM, I will let you know with another review. While I got screwed out of a substantial amount of money in 2019 because of this shoe review, I am still proud to have written one you all trusted so much you made so many orders. I will continue to provide such quality reviews, and do my best to partner with honorable companies.