The UK footwear market was worth approximately £9.5 billion in 2012 (in terms of current prices). Although the market has increased in value since 2007, growth has not been consistent, with sales declining in 2009 following the recession.
However, growth returned somewhat in 2010, as consumer confidence once again increased and the economy began to recover.
Consumption was particularly strong up to 2008, and the UK accounted for around 16% of all footwear sales in the EU, being the third-largest EU market for shoes, boots and sportswear. This was below Germany and France, but ahead of the next largest country, Italy. Historically, British per-capita spending on footwear was well above the EU average.
Footwear imports account for a very large proportion of total domestic demand, which continues to increase each year. In 2011-12, footwear imports are estimated to account for 91.8% of domestic demand, up from 87.9% in 2006-07 and 63.2% in 2000-01.
This rise has been due to increased footwear output from China and other low labour-cost countries, and the inability of UK footwear manufacturers to compete with these foreign firms.
The total number of companies making footwear in the UK fell from 246 in 2006 to just 167 in 2012, mainly reflecting the decrease in SMEs. Between them they generated over £700 million in turnover.
While micro-size establishments survived producing high quality shoes in small lots, and large firms benefited from economies of scale and their international operations, British SMEs failed to find their niche, and many of them exited the business over 2006-2012.
The leading competitors in the current marketplace include C&J Clark Ltd and the Pentland Group, both of which have managed to maintain their positions in the market in spite of the recession.
The latter, which distributes a number of popular sports footwear brands, has continued to move into more fashion/sports-focused areas of the market, while Clarks has remained the leading footwear retailer in the UK, after extending their consumer reach through a number of successful advertising campaigns.
For more information on the UK footwear market, see the latest research: UK Footwear Market
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