The UK is known worldwide for its exceptionally talented and influential footwear designers: Rupert Sanderson, Tracey Neuls and Jeffery West, to mention just some of the eponymous brands that are respected at home and in the toughest markets worldwide.
Another UK success story is a group of footwear companies and brands that are not so high profile, but who are succeeding despite the relentlessly brutal market that exists at the moment. These companies, despite being very different, have one thing in common, an entrepreneurial, hard-working owner who has spotted a niche and made it their own.
Take the Terra Plana group - Terra Plana itself, United Nude, Vivo Barefoot and Soul of Africa. It shows how innovation, ethical
concerns and some real wackiness can be married together to form successful concepts.
Homeys makes slippers, and that’s it. But by marketing and selling through its great website, the brand has been picked up by influential retailers.
Rakish Heels breathes design innovation, while designer Lynsey Hand at Miss L Fire and Shelleys personifies how creative genius backed by hard work will always pay dividends. The ethical sector has a growing number of groundbreaking concepts. Po-Zu, Bourgeois Bohème and Vegetarian Shoes are run in such a professional way that they inspire envy in bigger players.
For many organisations though, the issue is the next stage of expansion. Banks are still not forthcoming and despite solid business plans, funding is still hard to find. So come on business angels, take a fresh look at these entrepreneurial companies and see the opportunities.
Richard Kottler is chief executive of the British Footwear Association