British Footwear, Trodden Down by Its Rivals; FALL OF A THRIVING INDUSTRY

Article excerpt

OF the 1,677 pairs of ladies' shoes in Geoffrey Bailey Shoes in Wantage, fewer than five per cent were made in Britain.

Why? 'Cost,' said Helen Hook, 33, who has run the shop in the Oxfordshire market town for the last five years.

'We just do not have good ladies' manufacturers in this country. It is too expensive for them to do business here.' In fact, her shop has a higher percentage of British shoes than most of her rivals. Fewer than one per cent of pairs sold in a typical UK store were made in this country.

About 75 per cent of the shoes in Geoffrey Bailey are from Spain or Italy, with about 20 per cent coming from Germany.

The story is different for the men's shoes sold by the business ,which has been in the family for more than 100 years. About 55 per cent of these are still made by classic British names such as Church's and Loake.

But this number is falling fast. Just five years ago, it was closer to 80 per cent. The rest of the men's shoes are now sourced from eight different countries around the world - Germany and India (ten per cent each), Italy, Brazil and Spain (six per cent each), America (five per cent) and China and Portugal (one per cent each).

Mrs Hook said this is partly because the sort of casual shoes that men are increasingly choosing to wear are made better and cheaper overseas.

Unlike most High Street chains, Mrs Hook, who used to make handmade wedding shoes, refuses to buy much footwear from China and Vietnam.

Her experience working as a shoe buyer for another business put her off ever purchasing any shoes from that part of the world.

She said: 'First of all, the quality is not usually very good. …