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Bringing the family business community together

Family Firm Takes Independent Footwear Title

11th July 2019 Paul Andrews

One of the oldest shoe shops in England has won the ‘Oscars of the footwear industry.'

W.J. French & Son, which has stood proud as an independent, family business in Southampton for 216 years, was named independent footwear retailer of the year at the Drapers Footwear Awards.

The national awards celebrate the very best in the UK’s footwear industry, from designers and buyers to retailers and marketers. In winning this year, W.J. French & Son joined the likes of household names such as John Lewis, Sketchers and Clarks, who also picked up awards. 

Caroline French, managing director of W.J. French & Son, which is based in Bedford Place, said she was thrilled to fly the flag for independent businesses.

She said: “One of the things people love about independent businesses like ours is that we’re able to give such a personal service to customers. We have 16 very experienced members of staff and, considering their average length of service here is 22 years, they certainly know a thing or two about how to find the perfect fit!”

Judges at the Drapers Footwear Awards also praised W.J. French & Son’s great combination of tradition, history and the way it embraces the community. 

W.J. French & Son’s roots trace back to 1794, when Francis French began his apprenticeship as a shoemaker. In 1803, as a master shoemaker, he started his own business in Kingsland Place in Southampton. In 1890 his son William purchased the current shop in Bedford Place, which has flourished and expanded over the years. 

Caroline, who is the eighth generation of her family to run the business, added: “Supporting our local community is really important to us. After all, they’ve supported us for 216 years!”

The company is heavily involved in this year’s Bedford Place Festival, which takes place on July 21, and is all about celebrating the area’s rich network of independent businesses.

To find out more about W.J. French & Son visit their website here



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