In the race for consumer approval, C&J Clark focuses on everyday footwear. The shoe retailer and maker is one of the largest manufacturers of non-sports shoes in the world, selling more than 50 million pairs of shoes a year in some 50 countries. Its lineup of boots, casual and sports shoes, slippers, and sandals are made for men, women, and children, and sold under brand names, including Mary & Clarks, K Shoes, C&J, and Bostonian, through department stores, online, as well as retail operations under its own banner. C&J Clark counts some 500 shoe shops in the UK. Founded in 1828 as a sheepskin tannery, more than two-thirds of C&J Clark is 80% owned by the 500 living descendants of co-founder James Clark.
The company is the UK market leader by sales, ahead of Marks and Spencer. C&J Clark has won a following that includes celebrities; its Orignals DesertBoot adorns the peds of British pop stars. However, the company faces increasing competition in the UK from sellers of athletic footwear as well as from value-priced shoe chains. With the UK market for footwear flat, the company's sales growth is originating overseas, as its franchised network around Europe expands and its North American business takes root. To gain momentum, C&J Clark in mid-2010 rolled out a DesertBoot and Wallabee line under the Clark's Originals name for children. The move was on the heels of the footwear maker's 60th anniversary celebration of the debut of the DesertBoot.
C&J Clark is also targeting developing markets for growth; the company formed a 50-50 joint venture with Future Venture's Pantaloon Retail in 2010 to wholesale C&J Clark's products in India. The venture, which represented a change in its eight-year strategy of selling its products through a network of distributors, provided a platform for C&J Clark to target the country's growing number of working-class consumers. As part of the JV, the company has announced plans to open 100 stores in the country and sell 1 million pairs of shoes by the end of 2012.
Meanwhile, C&J Clark is banking on Eastern Europe and parts of Asia for growth, where production is outsourced. The last of the footwear company's British manufacturing facilities closed in 2005, but shoe design is still largely done in the UK. – less