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24 September 2014

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So Somerset


Clarks ends shoemaking in Somerset

Up to 90 workers at the Clarks shoe factory near Ilminster are coming to terms with the prospect of having to look for another job. The closure marks the end of shoemaking in the county.

Managers at the Street-based footwear manufacturer told staff on Friday 8 January that the only way the company can survive is by switching production to the Far East.

"The cost of manufacturing in the UK has increased over the last 20 years, and we have been able to source our shoes cheaper in the Far East."
John Keery

The closure of the plant near Ilminster marks the end of an era in Somerset. Although the firm's headquarters and warehouse will remain open, the factory in Dowlish Ford is its last manufacturing base in the county.

Clarks Shoes began life as a sheepskin-tanning company in Street in 1825, branching out into footwear with the launch of a range of slippers in 1830.

Let us know your views on the factory closure, and the end of shoemaking in Somerset, using the form at the bottom of the page.

A losing battle

One worker told the BBC in January: "It has been on the cards for a long time and we've been fighting a losing battle for years now."

Clarks in Street
The company's base in Street will remain open

A union spokesman said that, although the announcement was expected, it had still shocked members.

Managers responded that the move is essential for the company to survive.

Spokesman John Keery said: "The cost of manufacturing in the UK has increased over the last 20 years, and we have been able to source our shoes cheaper in the Far East."

last updated: 01/04/05
Have Your Say
What do you think about the factory closure? Where does Somerset's future economic prosperity lie?
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Mrs J Curwood
A disgrace that the factory should close, it means we are losing another part of our heritage/history.

Mr. A.Bishop
I thought that the manufacture of genuine Clark's shoes had ceased some years ago as all I have seen in their shops, for some time now, has been "street market" quality footwear.

Joanne USA
How sad!! I am sorry but the quality of out sourcing is just not the same!!!When will we learn. The Clarks made in England were the best and the new ones are not!!

clarks is the making of street. without the clarks famly it would not be the same. this was such a stupid idea to move from somerset to the far east. no wonder the quality of clarks shoes is not as good as it was

Dorothy Green
I bought my first pair of Clarks Shoes in Norfolk, Nebraska at Brown's Shoe Store. I fell in love with the quality and fit. Since then I have continued to buy Clarks, however, the last pair I bought, approximately 2 l/2 years ago, and worn very little, have actually fallen apart. I purchased them from Dillards in Temple, Texas. I am very disappointed in the quality and will probably switch to another brand of shoes.

John Robertson
I run a shoe shop and have tried to get Clarks to make my stuff to order for a long time. Answer always no. Big orders for their shop franchise or nothing.Now Mr Stables of Softwalker in Cumbria has bought the machinary and taken-on some of the staff from Clarks' canvas shoe factory - proabably this one - and is making all kinds of things with a minimum wholesale order of 12 pairs if you collect. He'll even make a single pair if you want to recycle your jeans into sandals. They're not massively expensive and of course he saves the massive admin costs of importing from the far east.I sell his sandals on my web site and a lot of other niche shops are selling the same thing. It turns out that a lot of people really want to buy fairtrade and European-made shoes, whatever the big companies say.

I hate to see this. Now I understand why I can't find a replacement pair of my favorite sandal, 'Clover' by Clarks and why I am seeing so many negative comments about the fit of Clarks shoes at different retailers. Good luck to all the former employees.

Adrian Brittlebank
Yet another kick in the teeth for UK production. What do we actually still make in this country which won't be transferred to China?

Joel Ramirez
To be honest they are the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn.

Herman Riley Stein
I bought my first Clark's shoe, the Sandel, in 1946, in Los Angeles. I don't know where they were made..My next pair, a few years later were made in India and they were no to good..I bought another pair and they were made in Mexico and they were very good.....Then I couldn't get anymore. I had a Cobbler, in the State of Nebraska, take apart my Mexican pair and reproduce a new pair for me...They are still wearable...My Cobbler died and I can't find another in the USA. Do you still have Cobbles in the UK? I am now 85 years old and I would like to die with my Sandals on. One note, I AM SICK OF BUYING ALL CHINA...It is getting difficult to find a "Made in USA"....Thanks for the space...hrs


I've always loved Clarks and here in the U.S. were one of the few offering narrow sizing. I have noticed negative changes the last couple of years and now know why. I'm not buying anymore.

bob brooks
Living in NZ now but originally from Axbridge, Somerset. Isn't globalization wonderful.

Bob Manning
What is happening in SOmerset is happening all over the world. China and far eastern countries have a lower wage base and we cannot compete. Western countries would have to STOP buying all goods produced outside their country if any manufacturing is to continue in their country. China will flood the market with cheap produce and we will become Third world. Western companies are having their produces made in China, so that they can keep their heads above water. There is not enough pride or investment in our own countries to allow manufacturing to continue. Where does Somerset's futre lie. May be you can gro grass and manufacture cheese. I hear that Chinese cheese isn't that available

Valerie King
This is a sad day for Britain. I love Clark's shoes, my favorites. And going to Street to buy bargains has been a part of my trips to England. I will still buy Clarks but I feel badly to see shoe manufacturing leaving both England and the United States.

I'm not surprised at this announcement and wonder why we even think of Clarks as a local business any more!

Glenn Wallis
I think Clarks will regret closing their UK factories. Clarks is a British Brand and at least some if its shoes should be made here! The foreign produced shoes do not offer the same quality, it is corporate greed striking again. I will no longer shop at Clarks and I urge people in Somerset and the rest of the UK to question where their shoes are produced. Vietnam and China the main areas for Clarks new shoe production are not as ethically aware as the UK. Buy shoes online and buy British :)

There is no doubt that the price of shoes will remain the same and the only losers will be the workers in the Clarks factory, and the sweated labourers the managers will employ, on a "contracted out" manufacturing process. Everyone will be happy because the exploitation will be hidden by the distance of China from here. This is disgusting and I shall ensure that my family and friends do not buy any products with the Clarks label.

Rod Harrison
Dismayed to see news of closure.I would suggest too high managemement costs and unnecessary expensive office buildings.Do we expect to see much reduced prices in view of cheaper labour costs and will quality slip?

Anna Ashby
I will be moving to the area very soon. I think that this could have been foreseen. Perhaps a 'buy British' type promotion could have helped? Anyway, it is a really great shame.

A F Wallace
Companies like Clarks do not care about the prosperity of the County or it's workforce. The bottom line is 'profit'. These companies moan about the increasing cost of running businesses in this country so they move overseas to countries that have lower overheads and cheeper labour however do they reflect this in the prices of their products made in these countries ?, of course not. 'Dyson' is a fine example of this. Since he moved his business to the Far East his products have gone up in price and Clarks shoes will be just the same. I refuse to buy products from such companies and I believe that more people should do the same.

amanda chivers
The cost of making the shoes are said to be cheaper.But why are the price still going up.

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