December 18, 2019 5 min read

Two things Australians love: R.M. Williams boots and not paying full price.

The R.M. Williams boot is one of the very few products sold here that has universal appeal. Worn by politicians and students, the urban elite and the urban fringe, CEOs and farmhands, cowboys on horseback and parents in SUVs; It’s more than just clever marketing, these boots are one of the best-made Ready to Wear footwear that our country produces. But with prices starting at $595, their mythical outback appeal can sometimes be an odd bedfellow with our devotion to the discount. 

Related Article: Our Pick: Best Boots In Australia

Enter R.M. Williams Clearance Outlets. The thrifty amongst us can visit one of these stores, dotted around most of our major cities, and pick up a pair of RMs at up to (and sometimes more than) half the RRP. Unfortunately, there isn't much information about these clearance outlets. Not much online. Nothing at all on the R.M. Williams website. So, I decided to find out for myself how it all works and this post gives the low-down. 

Boots that have walked the earth but will always be Australian. photo@ R.M. Williams. 

You won’t just find factory seconds 

I expected to find a bunch of boots that didn’t pass muster. I anticipated deep scratches, missing tugs, cracked heels etc., ‘the fish John West rejected’. While the majority of boots are factory seconds, boots can also find their way to the clearance shelves for a number of reasons: 

Factory Seconds: RM seconds are those boots with slight cosmetic defects. I was advised by RM that these defects are never structural. The leather might have a few growth marks. A minor scratch perhaps. Or maybe, the heel just wasn't finished to the craftsman’s liking? But like any factory second, it is all a matter of degree and a bit of luck for the shopper.

End-Of-Season: Pretty simple, styles come and go, boot lines get discontinued. The clearance outlets will be their final resting place.

Made-To-Order: Sometimes customers don’t pick up or change their minds on  Made-To-Order boots. If you can get your hands on a pair of these, you’ve done very well for yourself.

Old Stock: Those boots in the far corner of a warehouse, buried under boxes of other boots can be forgotten or missed. When found, they too can end up at these warehouses. 

Thomas George Collection

A decent range of styles

The availability of styles and sizes can be a bit of a lucky dip and vary from store to store. However, you will likely find all the popular styles, such as the Craftsman series. I noted many Craftsman in their standard Yearling leathers in either black or chestnut. I also came across a good range of Comfort Turnouts, Suede Craftsman, and older stock in less desirable styles and shape. 

If you're looking for a particular style (and size), I was given the tip that most stores get their stock at the end or beginning of each or every other week.

PROTIP: A phone call to your nearest outlet on a Friday or Monday might save you a wasted trip. 

They will probably have your size and standard fit

The boots were displayed in their respective sizes. Again, my concern was proven wrong.  If you’ve ever been to a sale you know how it usually goes, anything half decent will only be available in XXXS or XXXL. What I saw was an even spread of boots across all shoe sizes. 

They carried some sizes in narrower and wider widths too. I'm on the cusp of a normal (G) and wide (H) RM boot fit. They had both widths in my boot size across the popular styles (although most were in G fitting). The availability of sizes can change from week to week.

The Comfort Turnouts I purchased for 50% off RRPI ended up purchasing this pair of Comfort Turnouts for $275. Very satisfied. 

Expect to pay between $275-$400

The majority of popular boots, such as the Craftsman, in decent nick, will be in the $349-$400 range. Yet, I found some bargains at around the $300 mark. Infact, I picked up a pair of Comfort Turnout's (pictured above) for $275, which normally retail for $545. I noted a small price difference between stores. Personally, I would be more reluctant to purchase a pair off the clearance floor for $400, when for $145 more, I could pick up a perfect, new pair. 

The quality is pretty good

Now then, at this point, I'd like to dispute an oft-heard remark that the quality of R.M. Williams boots has declined since the buy-in from Singapore-based L Catterton Asia, a private equity firm backed by the owners of Louis Vuitton (2014). As far as production goes, it is business as usual for the 300+ strong workforce. And if a company's true health can be gauged by the turnover of its staff, then R.M. Williams is in very good stead, as many of their staff have worked there for decades. Both their 100-year old screw machine and Pfaff sewing machines - labeled 'Made in West Germany'- still make up important steps in the production process. The leather is still sourced from the same tanneries. This workforce takes great pride in their work, which is lucky for us penny-pinchers because their rigorous quality control processes turn out some very good quality factory seconds. 

RM Williams Clearance Mark

But I digress, the boots I inspected all looked pretty good. As mentioned, and explained to me in some detail, RM has a very stringent and rigorous quality control process. They are hyper-vigilant of defects and tend to err on the side of caution when in doubt. Structural defects are binned, obvious cosmetic defects don't tend to leave the factory either. I expected to find a ton of boots with deep scuff marks, chips to the heel or issues such as asymmetry problems. For the most part, I couldn’t really tell if they were seconds or just end-of-season stock, but I did find a couple of pairs with light-to-medium scuff marks.  I also feel that one of my boots is ever-so-slightly darker than the other (hardly noticeable to be fair), but, overall, I found the quality to be very good and worth the visit if you're in the market.  

Where to find RM Williams clearance outlets

ACT

R.M.WILLIAMS CLEARANCE DFO CANBERRA
Shop 118 Canberra Clearance OutletCorner Newcastle Street and Canberra Avenue, Fyshwick Australian Capital Territory2609 
+ 61 2 6112 6390

SA R.M.WILLIAMS CLEARANCE FROST ROAD
121 Frost Road, Salisbury South Australia 5108 
+ 61 8 8259 1090
SA

R.M.WILLIAMS HARBOURTOWN
T122 Harbourtown 727 Tapleys Hill Rd, West Beach SA 5024 
+61 8 8353 8031

NSW

R.M.WILLIAMS CLEARANCE HOMEBUSH
3-5 Underwood Road Shop 3-013, DFO Homebush, Sydney New South Wales 2140 
02 9746 0420

VIC

R.M.WILLIAMS CLEARANCE ESSENDON
100 Bulla Road Shop G-003, Essendon Fields Victoria 3041 
+ 61 3 9937 7504

QLD

R.M.WILLIAMS CLEARANCE HARBOUR TOWN BIGGERA WATERS
Shop C74 Harbour Town Corner Gold Coast Highway & Oxley Drive, Biggera Waters Queensland 4216 
+ 61 7 5537 9300


R.M. Williams clearance boots in summary

At the end of the day, everyone's criteria for shoes are different. But if the price is holding you back from purchasing a pair of these heritage boots, then the R.M. Williams clearance outlets are well-worth the visit. I found a good selection and was surprised by the quality available. I ended up purchasing a fine pair of Comfort Turnouts for $275. It was a factory second, but the defect is so minor as not to be noticeable. The more popular styles tended to be priced at the higher end of the spectrum, north of $400. Personally, I don't think that would appeal to me, as a non-clearance pair is only $150 or thereabouts more. Still, there are some real bargains to be found, and our love for RMs need not be a strange bedfellow to our aversion of paying full-price. 

[Edit: Since writing this blog post, RM has had a general price increase and visitors of this blog have reported tobe a commensurate increase in the price of boots at these outlets - James 23/07/20]

James Seaford
James Seaford


22 Responses

Terry Seymour
Terry Seymour

August 13, 2020

I have a pair of boots now about 5years old they were rebuild by by RM Williams after two years, at Christmas time I was in the Kimberlys WA and once again they required remaking too far from Perth I took them to a boot maker who told me he could do them, unfortunately his ability was far different than his capability and within a couple of weeks the glue holding the soles failed I took them back but the same again so I bought some glue from the big green shed this worked fairly well though I noticed the other day the soles starting to separate so next week it’s back to the drawing board getting the soles cleaned up so I can reglue them, unfortunately at $525 My pension doesn’t run to a new pair

Trevor Marks
Trevor Marks

August 13, 2020

Was once told by guest at party he had two pair of RMs so his wife got rid of the old pair , she said to me how many pairs of RMs do you need I said I have six or seven. It’s got nothing to do with need they’re RMs thats true love

Ben
Ben

December 18, 2019

Is the RM Williams online outlet site legit?

https://www.rmwilliamsoutlet.com/index.php

Marty
Marty

April 22, 2019

What about WA anything here you can tell us about 🤫

James from Trimly
James from Trimly

October 23, 2018

Hey tintin19, they are some nice boots! Great to see you found a pair of RMs at such a good price and thank you for supporting this blog :-)
Cheers,
James.

tintin19
tintin19

October 22, 2018

I bought a pair of Stockman Buckle Boots for $349 from the Gold Coast outlet.
Details
https://www.rmwilliams.com.au/stockman-buckle-boot/B652U_50FGCZ07.html?lang=en_AU
AU$695.00
An absolute bargain and brilliant boots to boot! Only problem seemed to be they got over burnished and ended up a dark brown color all over which just makes them look even smarter.
I’ll be going again and great article.

Aussie in NYC
Aussie in NYC

August 09, 2018

A ton of good information. It’s such a shame that there isn’t more information on these outlets. I’m an Aussie in NY and I’ve convinced half my consultancy about RM Williams.

Trimly
Trimly

July 12, 2018

Hi Bat, thank you for your considered response, and without sounding too American, thank you for your service. Your Q-store dropped the ball with your sizing. You should consider selling them on forums such as Style Forum or sub-reddit r/AustralianMFA, and using the dosh to get another pair. I say this because your Chestnut CC’s sound like they’ve had an illustrious career but will need to retire soon. From a pure price perspective, I appreciate RM has moved it into the luxury item category. So for many Aussies, this discretionary spend might have to be more discretionary than spending. Although, you’ve highlighted how durable they are and from a ‘cost-per-wear’ point of view you’re well and truly up. But really appreciate the hit to the back pocket. Thanks again for this great comment.

Bat
Bat

July 12, 2018

Tend to agree that the price these days for any RMW item is a bit of price gouge and opens the door for similar brands of equal quality like RB Sellers. It’s a bit of a shame really they’ve lost their country roots and pricing themselves out of everyday wear.

Own a couple of pairs of Craftmans Comforts, my black dress boots I got brand new for $330 at Gowlings in Sydney are about 15years old and aside from a worn heal ( I have a outward tilt gait which make heal wear angled outward on all my boots) and the inner leather worn near the heal, they’e in tip top condition. ( I’ve got issued a pair blister inducing round tow CC’s last year but don’t really wear them because the Q-store gave me 1/2 size too small a month before I discharge and didn’t want to hand them back and never see them again… free gear is free gear, so I might get them stretched out )

My chestnut chisel toes CC’s I wear everyday ( combination of inner city latte sipping hipster/ suburban dad and the occasional high country cattle sale, wood cutting trips home and being worn from everywhere from Afghanistan to London) are as old as Methuselah and pretty much shagged, 2nd/3rd heal replaced (complete with occasional nail sticking up through the heal and into my foot… cobbler should’ve used brass nails!) ) inner leather competently worn out, , the firm piece inside supporting back of the heal split in two and exposed, ( sports tape currently holding it in place) the outer leather is cracked and no amount of leather repair lotion can re-hydrate the them. the Toe is worn rough from kicking footballs, riding bikes, horses, armoured landcruisers and trams. They’re being thrown out of plane at 14000ft, meet Prime Ministers, heads of state and accused war criminals, being married in twice, got covered in the kinds of grizzle and muck no human should have to see, then alone walk through and used for a few drunken ‘Shoeys’ before Shoeys was a thing at B&S balls. But they are the most comfortable, adaptable item of footwear I own. Dress up or dress down, they’re brilliant. And all for $275 dollars at some suburban menswear place in Christchurch ( with bonus drizabone… like I said, free stuff is free stuff) many many years ago.

Being a tight@rse I’m a bit reluctant to drop close to $600 on replacements, so always keen to find cheaper options.

Jennifer Welsh
Jennifer Welsh

July 04, 2018

So glad I read this blog. Was about to suggest to my husband we take a trip to Essendon about 1 hr 15 from us. Don’t think we’ll bother.

Customer From Blog
Customer From Blog

May 25, 2018

Hi I found this article on google and was impressed enough that I went on and bought a couple of your shoe trees. Good content marketing ;-) Excellent shoe trees.

Rajesh Krishnan
Rajesh Krishnan

May 10, 2018

The staff at the DFO outlet in Sydney are awesome…the boots are priced a bit lower, while not compromising on the quality..love my second pair of RMWs and they are awesome…

Shahab
Shahab

May 10, 2018

Fantastic article ! Keep up the great work :)

Trimly
Trimly

April 16, 2018

Hey Andy. What’s the problem with them? You may want to send them back to RM, or at least run it by them first. I’ve been told they’ve been known to resurrect the dead. One would think that an RM outlet would work well in WA, especially around your Harbour Town area. It’s a good question! Might do some digging.

Andy
Andy

April 06, 2018

Great post, had a few pairs of craftsman over the years but one has just died and my cobbler says better to buy seconds pair than repair. There is no seconds store in WA anyone find anything online? Thanks in advance

Sharma
Sharma

November 24, 2017

I founds your post on reddit and want to say thanks for this write up. I have now read a few of your other blog posts and keep up the good work… we need more blogs like this in Australia.

Tempted
Tempted

November 13, 2017

Lucky I am no longer in the market, or else my wallet would have copped a flogging.

Paul
Paul

November 06, 2017

The RM store at Essendon DFO has just moved within the complex. Before there were shelves and tables full of RM Boots. Now there is one table.

Trimly
Trimly

November 04, 2017

@Dastardly: We were pretty lucky for quite a while. The boots, tone fair, were quite undervalued, given their international standing (and comparable quality boots). In 1966, around the time the Craftsman were first released, a pair cost about 7 pounds, which in today’s money is about $180. So they’ve always been a higher-end boot. But I do agree that the more they cost the more they will be scrutinised – and rightly so.

DDastardly
DDastardly

November 02, 2017

Funny that. Back in 2009 the Craftsman I still have cost me about $300. Nearly the same you paid for your factory second turnouts. I would agree with you there is continuity in quality. But they’re going to have to do better if they keep jacking up the prices.

Trimly
Trimly

November 02, 2017

@Denis, appreciate your feedback. The Sydney outlet is indeed open and seems a bit cheaper than the one in Melbourne. Happy boot hunting.

Denis
Denis

November 02, 2017

Great post Trimly. Last time I checked the Homebush store was getting some renos. But you’ve convinced me to plod on down and have a look. Ta!

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