A FAMILY firm which has been making medical shoes for almost a century is taking its first steps into the designer footwear market.
Newcastle-based Peacocks Medical Group has built an international reputation making calipers, leg braces and bespoke medical shoes, such as those needed by diabetics who have lost sensation in their feet.
But it is now looking to use the skills of the 175 staff at its factory on Benfield Business Park to create the finest quality shoes tailor-made for style-conscious customers. Managing director Chris Peacock, the fourth generation of his family to head the firm, said: “We used our own in-house designers who have been producing shoes for decades. They’ve really excelled and produced some excellent results.”
The team took inspiration from high-end designer brands on sale in London’s Bond Street and have put together a process where the customer has an input at every stage.
Mr Peacock was inspired to look at the diversification after reading of the high demand for made-to-measure suits. But finding new markets is nothing new for the company, which started life as a cutlery manufacturer and moved into medical supplies for First World War survivors.
The new sideline is currently being promoted through word of mouth and Peacocks’ directors are all wearing the designer shoes to help spread the message.
Mr Peacock is aiming to step up the marketing once the customer base is properly identified.
“We need to create an identity first. We are currently really playing with our offer; we are trying to find our exact niche,” he said.
“My hope is to be able to supply a few hundred pairs a year. If we get to 500 pairs a year I’d be delighted. We are going to start looking at ladies’ shoes in the future.”
Peacocks’ factory has expanded by around 40% in the last two years and the business is now turning over around £11m annually, a £1m rise on last year. It makes around 3,000 pairs of medical shoes a year.
Despite looming cuts to its key public sector market, Mr Peacock thinks the business will continue to grow.
“It’s an incredible time for us at the moment. There are massive changes and while our competitors are looking quite scared, we are in talks with key trust and key groups of GPs,” he said.
“There are better ways of delivering rehabilitation services. A lot of people are looking at different ways of delivering that sort of care .
“We are looking at keeping people in their own homes rather than in hospitals and delivering services to help meet those aspirations. People are going out to tender looking for cost-effective solutions.”