LM: Is your business unique, or are you just a ‘posh cobbler’?
PK: Of course, we are a posh cobbler, but we are a lot more besides. The cobbler industry conjures an old-fashioned image of a small, grimy shop in a side street and definitely not the place you would think to take your £1500 Dior heels to be mended. ShoeSpa is disruptive to the aesthetics and disruptive to the customer mindset. We have an online channel, and you don’t need to come near our ‘shop’ as we have such an efficient pick-up and return system in place, not only in the UK but globally. Customers can interact with us in a very different way to the high-street cobbler as we have a very advanced customer service team in place.
LM: Is there anything you can do that sets you apart from other shoe restorers?
PK: Innovation is a keyword at ShoeSpa. We are here to disrupt a very traditional industry, so we have looked at all aspects of the business and have worked hard to innovate in all areas—for example, our customer-focused services, our simplified ordering process and courier services. Innovation with our technical solutions is vital. We have focused on value creation for customers for efficient restoration of heavily damaged items. We have also developed new technologies such as patent leather restoration and are currently one of the very few places in the UK to offer this service.
LM: Can you restore everything?
PK: That is an interesting question, and honestly, I have to say no. Why? Well as an example and a general observation, puppies love to chew on heels and can actually ruin a pair of even the best-made shoes. If parts of your shoe are missing, we can do our best to restore it, but there will, of course, be limitations; if 20% of that shoe is in your puppy’s tummy, then we won’t be able to work miracles!
LM: So how long does it take to restore a pair of shoes?
PK: Professional and high-quality shoe restoration is a very advanced service, and it requires time. Some high-street cobblers, just like fast-food restaurants, may provide a short turnaround time, but we don’t work this way. We work with luxury and premium brands which require much more attention to detail and care, more advanced equipment and very skilled technicians. The restoration process often requires ten or more different steps and should not be done in a rush; hence 3-4 weeks are required for a high standard restoration job.
LM: What are the most interesting projects you have been given?
PK: The most interesting project I have worked on to date is a pair of walking boots from the first world war, which were over 100 years old. Handling them and reflecting on everything they had been through was humbling. I was blown away by how beautifully they’d been made and with such a high standard of craftsmanship. I was thrilled to be able to restore them to just as new, like a work of art and a little piece of history.
We do get a number of old vintage items in, and it proves that shoes can be used again and again if they are looked after
LM: I have to ask, but do some of these shoes smell when they arrive, and how do you combat this?
PK: Oh, yes, some of them really do! But we are prepared; we have a special machine which generates ozone gas, and once the shoes have been through this process, there is no odour left. It kills germs and bacteria and then we can get to work on them without having to hold our noses! People ask if this process is damaging to the environment, but this would go against what we stand for. The ozone gas is neutral to the environment.
LM: Do you have any collaborations in the pipeline?
PK: We are currently working on a collaboration with the fast-growing charity Shoe Aid. This charity is liaising with some of the largest organisations in the UK to reduce shoe poverty and reduce footwear waste and its impact on the environment. We have recently agreed to promote Shoe Aid on our website, collect shoes on their behalf and clean and repair some of the donated shoes they receive on a regular basis.
I think it is important to align ourselves with a relevant charity incentive. Collaborating with a like-minded brand/charity can only work to enforce our efforts to be more effective in our mission to be sustainable.
LM: Finally, what is your ultimate ambition for ShoeSpa/BagSpa?
PK: Our ambition is to become global leaders in our field, but our ethos remains the same; no matter how big we become, we will always keep our customers at our heart and will continue to help the environment by encouraging and promoting sustainability by giving your much-loved shoes and bags a new lease of life!
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