Proposal for Northampton's finest footwear to be sold at pop-up shops

The finest remains of Northamptons boot and shoe heritage can be found around Lower Mounts up to the Racecourse, Abington Square and down to the Billing Road but many are now asking: can more be done to celebrate our history?
The finest remains of Northamptons boot and shoe heritage can be found around Lower Mounts up to the Racecourse, Abington Square and down to the Billing Road but many are now asking: can more be done to celebrate our history?

The Northampton Business Improvement District has told this newspaper that plans are in the pipeline to boost our county's footwear heritage by opening pop-up shops on a regular basis.

Back in June, Wes Suter of Steffans Jewellers pitched his 'put your best foot forward' campaign to the Chronicle & Echo in a bid to attract shoemakers into the town centre in the hop eof them opening factory outlet shops.

Tricker's factory is fully behind the scheme to further promote the town's Boot & Shoe Quarter. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

Tricker's factory is fully behind the scheme to further promote the town's Boot & Shoe Quarter. Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

Wes saw a gap in the market when he noticed how international tourists currently do the rounds of big name Northampton footwear factories before they hop on a bus and head out of town - avoiding the main shopping streets entirely.

Off the back of Wes's idea the Chronicle & Echo started it's 'Save Our Soul' campaign, backed by managing director of Tricker's Martin Mason, who also wants the town's footwear companies to be shouted about.

Wes said: "I do welcome the council’s backing of putting a greater focus on shoe heritage, this town and county’s unique selling point.

"With some forward thinking, the boot, shoe and leather trade can boost Northampton’s economic development.

Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

"I've just really gone to you guys and said this is what needs to be done and it's got people chatting, and that in my eyes is progress.

"I would like it to look like a series of shops similar to Jermyn Street in London, with a hotel and sushi bar for the Japanese tourists.

"[It will be] a hub for shoes and will create a centre point for the industry - very exciting times ahead for our town. Now the council have to deliver it and make sure it is worthy of a journey."

Rob Purdie, executive director of Northampton town centre BID, said empty units in the town centre could be revamped to promote our shoe heritage.

“We are wholly in support and agree that more needs to be made of Northampton’s historic links to our boot and shoe heritage," he said.

"As part of this we need to develop a commercial angle that works for manufacturers, residents, tourists and businesses.

“We are working on a proposal to use vacant space, good quality factory shop stock and a flexible staffing resource to deliver a series of pop-ups that promote the many great brands based in the town and county on a regular basis.”

In July, a motion proposed to Northampton Borough Council by Labour councillor Gareth Eales, won cross-party backing at full council.

The scheme recommended plans to revamp a vacant site in the middle of town to showcase and sell shoes and leather goods from the county's finest cobblers, which will, in turn, bring tourism into the main shopping streets.

Gareth Eales (Lab, Spencer) told the Chron: "It is very pleasing that the administration are taking forward Labour's proposed boot and shoe hub.

"It is essential that we do all we can to make Northampton town centre the best it can be against changing shopping trends nationally.

"Harnessing together history and our world class shoe industry would be great. I only hope this initiative doesn't suffer the paralysis others have in recent times, as the authority has been somewhat distracted."

Councillor Jonathan Nunn, leader of Northampton Borough Council, said: “The development of a boot and shoe hub to showcase local heritage and businesses is a great idea and one we are fully supportive of.

“As well as an even greater focus on the town’s shoe heritage being a part of Northampton Museum & Art Gallery when it re-opens after refurbishment, we are continuing discussions with local footwear companies over the next few weeks to ensure the boot and shoe offer in the town is improved.”