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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 September, 2003, 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
Start-rite ends UK production
Start-rite shoemaker
The last production workers at Start-rite have been made redundant
Production at one of the oldest manufacturers in Norfolk has drawn to a close - striking another blow against the country's shoe industry.

Start-rite, which has been making children's shoes in Norwich for more than 200 years, ceased its production in the UK on Thursday.

While the business' head offices, UK distribution and design centres will remain in the city, the shoes will be made in Portugal and India where production costs are lower.

The company, which once employed more than 500 people in Norwich, will retain about 100 jobs in the city but the last 28 people working on shoe production have been made redundant.

Start-rite chairman Peter Lamble said the move overseas was purely economical as it had been importing most of its raw materials.

"The companies that make the lasts, that make the soles and even tan the leather have gone out of business in the UK. They're all overseas," he said.

The basis of the company was formed in 1792 by James Smith
It was started in a small workshop behind Norwich market making made to measure boots
When the business expanded it became one of the first to offer off-the-peg footwear
"For the last year or two we have been importing all the raw material simply to employ labour in Britain which is really not very economical."

Staff working on production for Start-rite said it was an end of era.

Supervisor Mike Holloway said: "You can't put into words what you think at this moment - it's just a lot of history which has gone down the tubes."

The decline in the shoe industry in Norwich mirrors that of Northampton where its manufacturers are moving abroad to be more competitive.

The maker of Dr Martens boots, R Griggs Group, is moving its production to China, shedding about 800 jobs in the UK.

Start-rite's decision to stop production in Norwich leaves just the Florida Group as the county's last major shoe manufacturer.

Start-rite will also move from its Crome Road site in December to a new 3m centre in Broadland Business Park, Thorpe St Andrew.

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