Northampton’s first new shoe factory in decades to open

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The UK makes six million pairs of shoes each year, with almost half of that number exported

A town renowned for its shoemaking heritage has gained its first new footwear factory in more than 30 years.

London-based Foster and Son, which has been making shoes since 1840, opened a new production site in Northampton on Thursday, creating up to 20 jobs.

The town’s shoe industry dates back to the 15th Century but had faced pressure from cheaper overseas labour.

Foster and Son’s chairman, Richard Edgecliffe-Johnson, said the town had “the best” shoemaking craftsmanship.

“There is a lot of pressure on the industry from cheaper overseas labour but Northampton has an international reputation for shoemaking,” he said.

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Northampton was one of the most important shoemaking towns in the early 1900s

The Northampton operation of the company, on the St James Mill Industrial Estate, has eight employees but that is expected to grow to up to 20 in the next year.

The firm currently has a single store on Jermyn Street in London.

John Saunders, chief executive of the British Footwear Association, said: “It’s a vote of confidence in not only high-end footwear but in Northampton as, until now, the company has had its workshops in London.

“It’s a recognition of the skills available in the town and its international reputation for quality, as this is a very high-end product.”

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Foster and Son is the first new footwear factory in the town in more than 30 years

The UK makes six million pairs of shoes each year, with almost half of that number exported.

Northamptonshire, where more than 20 shoemakers are based, is seen as the heart of the UK shoe industry, which employs 4,000 people.

Northamptonshire and shoes

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Northampton Museum and Art Gallery

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Northampton Museum and Art Gallery has about 12,000 shoes in its archive

  • Northamptonshire was once the world’s shoemaking capital but many manufacturing processes moved abroad from the mid-20th Century due to lower costs
  • Northampton Museum, currently closed for refurbishment, boasts 12,000 shoe exhibits
  • League Two football club Northampton Town are nicknamed The Cobblers
  • In 2015, Northamptonshire shoemakers were said to be exporting £20m-worth of shoes to Japan each year, with their value rising 45% in the five years since 2010

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