A Leeds company pioneering a new approach to footwear repairs has secured a £300,000 loan from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia Debt and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, to enhance its technology.
The Boot Repair Co provides an authorised repair service on behalf of leading footwear brands including Fairfax & Favor, Vivobarefoot and Dubarry of Ireland, and also operates ‘white label’ websites to manage sales of refurbished products on their behalf. The funding will provide additional working capital following its recent success in winning a major contract with Dr Martens. It will also enable it to create 10 new jobs in the next six months and develop a bespoke software system to manage the entire repairs process, from receipt of goods to despatch.
The Boot Repair Co was formed in 2011 by father and son Gerald and Tom Forbes who run the Craggs Shoe Repairs chain, and Chris Wilson, whose family founded Leeds-based Charles Birch, Europe’s leading supplier of footwear repair components. The company is now led by Tom Forbes, the current managing director.
In addition to working with brands, it also provides repairs for customers direct, and has an exclusive contract with the Household Cavalry to repair military boots. Over the past 12 months it has refurbished over 100,000 pairs of boots and increased staff numbers from 35 to 68. Around 55 of these staff are based at its new premises in Leeds, and the remainder at its second site in Rochford, Essex.
The company is currently working with Leeds City College to launch a new apprenticeship scheme and has received a range of advice and financial support from business support programmes delivered in partnership between West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leeds City Council. This includes grant support towards cost of the new software, premises fit out and the original introduction to Mercia.
Jamie Whitehouse, Operations Director, said: “We are pleased to have won contracts with so many prestigious brands. We have already made major investments in technology, machinery and training to enable us to take on this work including, most recently, sending staff to the Dr Martens factory for several weeks to learn their production techniques. The latest funding will enable us to continue to expand and develop software that will significantly enhance our efficiency.”
Gary Whitaker from Mercia Debt added: “Pre-owned footwear is a huge and growing market and offers benefits for brands and consumers alike, as well as being good for the planet. While many high street cobblers are struggling, The Boot Repair Co is bringing a new, tech-enabled approach to the industry. The company has already created dozens of jobs and we are pleased to support its continued growth.”
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, deputy leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds City Council is delighted to have helped The Boot Repair Company access a wide range of business support to drive growth and create skilled employment opportunities for local communities. This is part of our commitment to inclusive growth to help strengthen and grow the local and regional economy providing jobs, training and development for all.”
Debbie Sorby at the British Business Bank, said: “It is promising to see NPIF’s continuing commitment to supporting high-growth businesses in the North. This investment demonstrates how the right funding at the right time can make a real and measurable difference to businesses, paving the way for established businesses like Boot Repair Co to create new jobs and nurture local talent through its apprenticeship scheme. We look forward to seeing the impact investment can make with the upcoming launch of NPIF II.”
The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.