British-based international shoe manufacturer and retailer, Clarks, is to open a new manufacturing unit in Somerset – more than a decade after moving production to the Far East.
The new facility has reportedly been under development for the past two years and is expected to be based at Clarks headquarters in Street, Somerset.
Clarks started making shoes in the UK almost 200 years ago, but production was relocated to the Far East in 2005, according to reporting by the BBC.
When it becomes operational next year (subject to planning permission), the site will produce 300,000 pairs of Clarks best-selling desert boots annually. If successful, Clarks may be spurred to launch similar production sites in the US, Europe and Asia over the coming years.
Clarks expects the new facility to create up to 80 highly-skilled technical and managerial positions, and aims to enable the business to get new shoe ranges to market more rapidly, in response to fast-changing consumer demands.
Chief executive, Mike Shearwood, explained: “Clarks has always led the way in shoe design and manufacture having developed a significant proportion of modern shoe construction technologies. This new facility will help us continue that tradition of innovation.”
The company’s move comes in the wake of Brexit and sterling’s consequential slump, which has caused many retailers to readdress how they source their products. Clarks’ profits sank 43% to £20m in the year to 31 January and the retailer warned at the time that the slumped value of the pound will have a “profound effect” on cashflow and profit in the year ahead.
Shearwood added: “Clarks is changing and as a global business we need to innovate and respond to the changing global economic order – Clarks is thinking big and innovating to ensure we are fit for the future and at the forefront of shoemaking, whilst being able to adapt to an ever-changing world.”
The former boss of Karen Millen, Shearwood only took the helm at Clarks last September but in less than a year has already launched widespread reviews of its store portfolio, its manufacturing capacity and the workforce based at its Somerset headquarters.