(last updated July 2019)
What has been happening in the shoe repair sector
The traditional shoe repair sector has had to evolve in the last couple of decades as demand for its core service - footwear repair - has fallen. One of the reasons contributing to this is the use of thermoplastic soles which cannot be repaired as nothing will stick to them. As a result, most businesses in the sector have broadened the range of services that they offer to include key cutting, watch repairs, engraving and so on.
According to many trade sources, the recent economic downturn actually benefited the repair sector as more people reportedly looked to 'make do and mend' rather than replace. It has also been suggested that current popularity of 'traditional' footwear has also boosted demand for shoe repairs.
Nevertheless, the independent shoe repairer faces strong and ever-growing competition from the multiple Timpson chain. Throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Timpson steadily expanded through acquisition of its rivals like the Mr Minit chain as well as through a programme of new store openings. In recent years, most of these openings have been within supermarket stores or their car parks and this has enabled Timpson to rapidly expand its numbers. By 2018, the chain offered shoe repair, key cutting, watch repairs and other services in over 2,000 stores. Such has been the scale of Timpson's recent expansion that SOMSR, the main shoe repair trade association, took the step in 2015 of launching a 'Timpson survival kit' to help its members combat the expected fall in takings.
In recent years, some businesses have looked to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the internet to offer online services like shoe repair and key cutting although as yet they are only a very small aspect of the trade.
Keep up to date with the shoe repair sector
Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up with developments in your industry. The interests of the UK shoe repair sector are represented by the Society of Master Shoe Repairers (SOMSR) and the Shoe Repairer forum.
Trade journals like Cutting Edge are useful sources of industry news, marketing ideas and classified advertisements for new and used equipment.
The British Footwear Association (BFA) represents the footwear industry as a whole in the UK. The BFA website is a good source of general information about the footwear industry.
Trade fairs and exhibitions
You will be able to get a lot of information about the shoe repair industry from trade fairs and exhibitions. These are usually attended by suppliers to the industry who will be able to give you information on costs and so on. The dates and locations of fairs and exhibitions are generally given in the trade press. Information about forthcoming trade shows is also available on the Exhibitions UK website.