North Shoes continues legacy of family footwear business

At the end of July, Oundle’s longest-serving business was sold to Lincolnshire’s North Shoes. R C Cotton and Sons Ltd had traded in the Market Place since 1871.

North Shoes, recently awarded the Men’s Independent Footwear Retailer of 2017 award, has a total of five branches, with other stores in Bourne, Stamford, Peterborough, and Cambridge.

‘I am absolutely delighted to have acquired Cotton’s of Oundle. We have looked at it for some time. It is the right fit for us – a lovely, independent, long-established shoe business in a lovely market town,’ said James North, the fifth generation at the helm of Bourne-based North Shoes.

north shoes 2

North Shoes intends to maintain the high standards of customer service that Cotton’s had offered for the past 146 years as Oundle’s primary shoe retailer. ‘We want to carry on offering what they have been offering as a quality family concern… we will continue to sell all of the brands they have offered and maintain the same high quality level of service.’

North’s offers a fitting service and is a children’s fitting specialist.

Bex Ingram, manager of North Shoes, said that new brands such as Converse, FitFlop, Superga and Caprice will be introduced, in addition to stocking traditional brands like Clarks. The store also stocks Loake seconds, Northamptonshire made luxury leather shoes sold at a discounted price due to superficial markings or scuffs.

‘They are still very structurally sound,’ Ingram said, adding that they have proved popular with their customers.

North Shoes was founded by William North in 1876 in Bourne, where they sold and made boots on the premises until 1914.

James North joined the family business in 2006, and is responsible for the expansion of the business on the high street and online. In Cambridge, North Shoes provides the only fitting service in the city.

At the time of the sale, Anne Cotton, the fourth generation at the head of R C Cotton and Sons Ltd, said she was confident in North’s abilities and vision for the shop.

‘We are a stand-alone independent shoe shop in a small but vibrant market town with a thriving business, amazing staff and
hugely loyal customers. James North approached me about buying the business — we wouldn’t have sold to just anybody.

‘We could have kept running the shop and then one day closed, but this way, the town is going to be assured of a good quality independent shoe shop for many years to come.’

Zara Abdullah
December 2017