Clarks factory closure signals significant loss to UK shoe manufacturing

Clarks has confirmed plans to close its only UK factory following a consultation period. The move will affect about 35 jobs and end the brand’s attempt to bring manufacturing back to Britain.


Clarks

“In January 2019, we announced a proposal to cease production and close our Morelight manufacturing facility in Street,” the heritage shoe brand said in a statement on Monday.

“Despite our best efforts, the levels of production and cost targets we hoped for could not be reached in the short to medium term and following a period of consultation, the proposal has been accepted and the factory will close.”

The high-tech factory opened in 2017 with capacity to make around 300,000 pairs of shoes a year. It was a shining moment for the Somerset-based brand, marking a return to UK manufacturing after a 12-year hiatus. It was expected to create up to 80 technical and managerial roles, but in the end it seems to have employed only half of that.

“We have a strong duty of care to all our employees and have been supporting them through this process, offering outplacement support and identifying alternative roles at Clarks,” the brand said this week. “We’re pleased that 10 employees have taken up a new role within our business, but regrettably the remaining 35 employees will be leaving us. They leave with our thanks and best wishes for the future.”

Clarks was one of only few large British footwear brands having UK manufacturing facilities, alongside New Balance, Dr Martens and Hotter. Now it will continue to make shoes in the Far East, following a trend which has seen the UK footwear manufacturing sector decline since the 1970s.

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