Clarks is creating a new manufacturing arm in Somerset, which will have the capacity to produce up to 300,000 pairs of its Desert Boots per year.
The facility, which has been under development for two years, is set to begin operating next year, subject to planning permission. It will be based at the footwear firm’s headquarters in Street, and create up to 80 technical and managerial jobs.
It will eventually be used make other styles, but Clarks decided to start with the Desert Boot because it is “iconic”. It will continue to manufacture 500,000 Desert Boots per year from the factory it currently works with in Vietnam.
All boots made in Somerset will be stamped “Made in the UK”.
The company plans to roll out similar production units to other locations across the US, Europe and Asia over the next few years.
Clarks group sourcing director Antony Perillo explained that the business had identified a need to “supplement” its existing supply chain, and bring down lead times.
For example, lead times can be up to 55 weeks, but by manufacturing in the UK – closer to the tannery in Leeds that supplies its leather – Clarks can cut this to between 13 and 19 weeks. “It will make us more responsive,” said Perillo.
Chief executive Mike Shearwood added: “We have generally been looking at our business model, which has been the same for years, to see how flexible we can make it.
“We conceived this idea before Brexit because the world is changing. This [new local approach] forms part of that change and gives us flexibility about where we can manufacture around the world.”
However, he acknowledged that it was well timed in light of the outcome of the EU referendum: “It will help us mitigate fluctuations in currency and tariffs.”