Shoe retailer Clarks have been icons in British footwear for generations. There are not many brands out there who are still authentic in nature and hold such a strong bond with their customers the way Clarks have. From our children to our great grandparents, many Brits’ earliest memories from their childhood revolve around their first experience in a pair of pretty, polished Clarks shoes that they wore from the second they could walk, right the way through school life and for many years to come afterwards.
Whilst still being based in Street, Somerset, over 200 years later Clarks sell more than 50 million pairs of shoes a year and posted a record turnover of £1.4billion in 2015, with operating profits of £115.8million. Since 1825 this brand has emphasised the importance of family with 80% of their share holders being friends and family and the remaining 20% being employees and ex-employees.
Family is everything for this brand especially as the brand was established by two brothers – Cyrus and James Clark. The Clark brothers were woollen rug tradesman who specialised in creating rugs made from sheepskin. However, one day, James was hit by a flash of inspiration that changed the Clarks legacy forever…
SLIPPERS! Just an average busy working day in the tannery owned by Cyrus Clark, turned into a multi-billion-pound empire for the brothers when James came up with the idea of making sheepskin slippers out of the wool off-cuts and cast-offs – and the rest is history!
As evolution did what it does best, the Clark family empire transformed their trade from woollen rugs to sheepskin slipper and then finally all forms of footwear. Although, the transformation wasn’t always smooth sailing as Clarks did actually come close to bankruptcy twice in their two centuries of trading which caused job loss, factory closures and even called for new management.
Due to his father’s financial situations, the Clark family called for James’ son William to take hold of the company. William revolutionised the ways and manufacturing of the company by establishing a strict regime into production and introducing specialist machinery which was maintained for nearly 50 years.
However, the Clarks’ innovation did not stop here. Nathan Clark, William’s grandson pushed the Clarks brand a thousand strides forward with his iconic invention of the Desert Boot. Whilst serving in the Royal Army Service Corps in Burma in 1941, Nathan had an epiphany that transformed Clarks footwear into the original brand that they are today. Although it did take eight years before anyone noticed Nathan’s invention, once the fashion editor of Esquire in New York saw what Nathan had created he ran a full spread in the magazine.
Since that spread, the original Clarks Desert Boots have become icons in British footwear fashion with celebrity fans such as Tony Blair and Noel Gallagher flying the Clarks flag high and adding to Clarks impressive Desert Boots sales figure of over 10 million pairs.
Although production has changed slightly in order to be more economical, Clarks shoes are now manufactured in countries such as China and Vietnam however, one thing has stayed certain and that all Clarks shoes are designed at home in Street, Somerset.