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Once the most famous footwear retailer in the UK, Shellys is recreating its young, funky handwriting for the wholesale market

Once at the cutting edge of the British footwear industry, Shellys, which built its name around its London Oxford Circus flagship, struggled to compete in the crowded middle market during the mid-2000s against bigger competitors such as Office and Schuh.

The store was subsequently closed by parent company Stylo in 2007 and the brand name sold on to Hong Kong supplier Eternal Best Industries in 2008. Eternal Best Industries drafted in the design talents of Lynsey Hand, founder of women’s contemporary footwear brand Miss L Fire and former buying director of footwear retailer Office. Hand’s creativity and eye for quirky detailing made her the perfect candidate to recapture the unique Shellys offbeat handwriting.

Hand says the challenge is to rebuild a strong brand profile, which was lost during the difficult time before the takeover in 2008.

“The plan was to take the brand back to what it was in its 1980s heyday - fun, funky, young fashion shoes in leather at an affordable price,” she says.

So what can we expect so see for autumn 10, Hand’s fourth season at the brand? “We’ve moved away from platforms and skyscraper heels, and instead are selling cute mid-heel T-bars, and casual suede bootees in jewel colours such as sapphire and blue and emerald green. As always we have a strong flats collection, which features clip-on bow trims and 1980s-style gold ornaments,” says Hand. Wholesale prices range from £21.99 up to £ 47.99.

Hand continues to design her own Miss L Fire brand as well as Shellys, but believes they have different customer profiles. “Shellys is aimed at 18 to 30-year-olds and is very on trend. Miss L Fire’s customer is a little older at 25 and over, and typically mixes vintage with designer or high street pieces,” she says.

Hand says Shellys’ focus is on growing orders with its current accounts rather than adding to its 40 UK stockists.

However, Hand does have an eye on international expansion via new wholesale accounts. “We’ve started to pick up the pace with Shellys and Miss L Fire in the US and Canada. The US seems to support its indies more than the UK does. Its smaller towns don’t let the multinationals take stores, which means the mom-and-pop stores in smaller towns are protected and tailor to local customers. Our product is really quite different to anything else in the US too.”

Opening standalone stores in the UK is also being talked about by Shellys. Although there are no current plans, Hand points out: “When the time is right, it will happen”. l

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