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How To Find Discounted RM Williams Boots

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 adviced 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

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). 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 - labelled '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 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, around $400. Personally, I don't think that would appeal to me, as a non-clearance pair is only $145 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 to me a commensurate increase in the price of boots at these outlets - James 01/07/19]

Comments

Shahab:

Fantastic article ! Keep up the great work :)

May 10, 2018

Trimly:

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.

Apr 16, 2018

Andy:

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

Apr 06, 2018

Sharma:

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.

Nov 24, 2017

Tempted:

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

Nov 13, 2017

Paul:

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.

Nov 06, 2017

Trimly:

@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.

Nov 04, 2017

DDastardly:

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.

Nov 02, 2017

Trimly:

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

Nov 02, 2017

Denis:

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!

Nov 02, 2017

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