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Clarks: Made to Last: The story of Britain's best-known shoe firm Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
It may record the early days accurately but not recent times or important strategies that brought about the changes that the Company is benefitting from to day
Clarks was and is a great Company.The book and its author do not do it justice
Clarks shoes was set up in 1825 by Quaker brothers Cyrus and James Clark in the southern English county of Somerset and is still based in the town of Street where the private company presides over the production and design of 50 million pairs of shoes annually. Most of the shoes are now made in China and Vietnam.
The Clarks brothers were originally in the woolen rug trade but were soon making numerous lines of shoes from woolen off-cuts.
What is attractive about Mr. Palmer's story, is that the narrative of Clarks shoes is also a story of the moral principles and industrious nature of the Quaker faith, a movement that sprang up in the late 17th century in England. The Society of Friends, popularly known as the Quakers, proposed a practical form of Christianity and focused more on how to treat others and lead good lives rather than on dogma and the clergy. Quakers often took up unpopular causes such as opposition to slavery and war and the need for prison reform. They were also noted for their paternalistic attitude and ethical commitment to their workers.
A "person's word is his bond" was central to the philosophy of Quaker businesses.
Along with Clarks, many other noted Quaker businesses such as confectioners and chocolate-makers Cadbury's, Fry's, Rowntree; biscuit companies Huntley and Palmer and Jacob's and Carr's; along with bankers Barclays and Lloyds, helped fuel British capitalism in the 19th century. These firms were noted for their values of honesty and hard work.
Mr. Palmer, a longtime journalist and travel editor for the Daily Mail, has trawled the archives of Clarks and unearthed some novel insights.
The Clark brothers were not the best of businessmen and found themselves often strapped for cash. In the 1840s they were bailed out by other Quaker friends.
Queen Victoria visited the company's stand at the famed Great Exhibition of 1851.
According to Mr. Palmer, during the Crimean War the British government requested the company to make sheepskin coats for the troops. At first, Clarks declined the order based on moral principles, but then decided to use the profits to build a school in the town of Street.
One of the company's most famous shoes was the Desert Boot, invented by James' great-grandson Nathan Clark while he was serving in Burma with the Royal Army Service Corps in 1941.
The boot was described in a 1957 advert as the "world's most traveled shoes" and has been been sold in 100 countries. It was named one of the "Fifty Shoes That Changed The World" by the Design Museum in 2009. Ten million pairs of the boot have been made and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair often donned a pair, as well as noted celebrities Oasis star Liam Gallagher, Rihanna, Robbie Williams, Bob Dylan and the Arctic Monkeys. Before them, Margaret Lockwood, Anna Neagle, Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer and Marlene Dietrich all modeled Clarks shoes. Even soccer player David Beckham was a poster boy for the footwear in his Manchester United days. Clarks also introduced the British to the Chupplee, an open-toe sandal with soft leather covering the contours of the foot.
The company has seen some bumpy days. At one point in 1863 the company was bailed out by the biscuit company Huntley and Palmers. It should be noted that Mr. Palmer is scion of the Huntley & Palmers biscuit company.
In the mid 1990s the shareholders voted by the slimmest of margins, managed to keep the company private.
The firm's longevity is a testament to history writes Mr. Palmer, as family firms seldom stand the test of time. According to the U.K.'s Institute for Family Business, only 13 percent of family companies survive to the third generation. Clarks has gone on for seven. Clarks shoes continue to pop up in Malls' across the United States. One of the first stores in the U.S. opened at the Mall of America in 1996.
The company, which prides itself on stylish and comfortable shoes, has more than 250 stores or retail partners in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Clarks also owns the Bostonian shoe store chain.
What comes out of Mr. Palmer's book is the story of a company that cared for its workers and community but at the same time put out a good product and found success. It's a lively story. Clarks longevity deserved a history book and Mr. Palmer has produced a sliver of British history worth reading.
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