Cherry Blossom Shoe Polish Maker Puts A Shine On Its Profits As Austerity Bites
Posted 20 February 2012 - 12:16 AM
'You only need to look at the standard of most men's shoes walking down a British high street. Scuffed, and that's only the leather ones. Many are soft, shapeless things. The type my father would call brothel creepers.
But you would be wrong. Because, in fact, the British male still has standards and cares passionately about the shine on his brogues. That is the clear message from the accounts of Grangers, whose sales increased by 32pc last year, after a 25pc increase the year before. And in that time profits have increased ten-fold.
Grangers is the parent company of Cherry Blossom. It is less well known than its main rival, Kiwi, but it is a small, historic, and increasingly successful private company. And it is, importantly, the only company that still makes its shoe polish in Britain – on a trading estate near Derby, which it shares with the headquarters of Slimming World.
This partly explains why sales have jumped from £6.19m to £8.18m in the year to September 2011, and profits went from £479,000 to £850,000.
The other reason is the terrible weather and economy. Paul Lister, the sales manager, says: "We like bad weather and hard times. We're a depressing lot here."
Snow, which has fallen heavily in the last three winters, can ruin a good pair of shoes – rescuable only with good, old fashioned wax polish. And the company also became a distributor of Wintertrax, those very clever gizmos that attach to the bottom of a pair of shoes to stop them slipping on icy pavements. It is part of its policy to offer a full set of "shoe care" equipment, including shoe trees, insoles and even toe warmers.
But it is the dire economy that has really driven business. Mr Watkins explains: "Our sales growth has coincided with the international downturn. We are in the care and maintenance business. It is a great misconception people don't care for their shoes.
"People are really looking after what they have. If you have a £150 pair of shoes, rather than scuff them to hell and get a new pair, they are cherishing them."
It's the same phenomenon that saw Timpsons enjoy booming sales as people got their shoes re-soled in the recession, and sales of darning equipment increased at John Lewis.
So what happens when the sun comes out and George Osborne works out how to engineer some growth into the economy? "We'll just have to work a bit harder," says Mr Watkins.
He reckons the fact it is still made in Derbyshire gives Cherry Blossom the edge. Kiwi, now owned by American consumer goods giant SC Johnson, is made in Jakarta and in Britain it appears to be cutting down on the colours it offers. Black, dark brown and neutral are the only Kiwi colours one can buy, leaving all those owners of light tan brogues or navy blue Trickers without a wax polish. Cherry Blossom is determined it can grab market share by filling the gap.
The factory in Alfreton is straight out of "George's Marvellous Medicine" – large mixing vats, or kettles as they call them, heat up and melt a mixture of different waxes and pigments. It's wonderfully old-fashioned and surprisingly low tech. All the lids are attached by hand and the shoe cream is pumped into the jars by the factory worker moving the nozzle up and down the production line.
The shoe polish market is still tiny but the company believes that only about one in 10 pairs of shoes is sold with a tin of shoe polish or cream. Its next job is to persuade retailers that selling one tin for every three pairs would mean we all have smarter feet and shoes which last much longer.'
Posted 20 February 2012 - 08:03 AM
Posted 20 February 2012 - 10:51 AM
Shall walk this world, in credit, to his grave..'
'The pension system has been a very nice gravy train for all of those involved except for those paying into it.'
'Let's see if we can get it for the asking price..' Kirstie Allsop
"Be under no illusion. You will not escape the net..." S'rAlan Sugar
Sex, drugs and sausage rolls...
The House of Lords: 'The Ermine Vermin....'
Posted 20 February 2012 - 11:22 AM
I keep one in the toilet.
country is at risk
do not keep up repayments
on a gilt or other loan secured on it