Handmade Sheffield shoe company steps into spotlight with own brand to beat the pandemic

Who knew there was a high-end footwear factory in the Steel City making shoes costing up to £340-a-pair?

Friday, 15th January 2021, 10:04 am

On the edge of Sheffield’s industrial heartland and miles from the country’s shoe capital - Northampton - it is one of the last places you might expect to find such a facility.

Thousands of drivers pass the building at the bottom of Spital Hill every day, unaware of the crafting taking place inside.

For years, Goral had no need for publicity because it made ‘white label’ shoes for other companies.

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Princess Anne opens the Goral factory in 2018, with joint MD Dominik Goral.

But after the firm was hit with a lot of cancelled orders in the first lockdown, it is stepping into the spotlight with its own brand.

Bosses hope the new range will be worth 40 per cent of business in three years.

Olly Murs was seen wearing a pair in a 10-second clip on The Voice recently. And the reviews have been favourable, according to joint managing director Dominik Goral, aged 23.

He added: “As a brand we stand for quality with a timeless, classic English look. We don’t want to flood the market with Goral shoes. We want to focus on what we do best and not move with fashion trends.

The Goral team.

“People are surprised to find us here. Customers think of Italy, Romania and Bulgaria as the big shoe-producing countries. And in the UK, the centre is Northampton. But it’s a small industry and we all know each other.

“Sheffield might not have a big shoe sector. But we’ve hired people from Huddersfield and Barnsley who worked in the textile industry and re-skilled them.”

It is the latest venture at a company that was launched in Poland 1936 and survived the Second World War, communist control and much ’domestic politics,’ Dominik says.

When the country joined the EU in 2005 the family relocated to the UK, following in the footsteps of thousands of Poles who chose Sheffield.

The Goral family in Poland.

At first, the business did shoe repairs before moving into manufacturing in 2008.

It moved to Spital Hill in 2018 and Princess Anne - president of the UK Fashion and Textile Association - flew in by helicopter for the official opening.

Today it employs 40, including dad Bogdan and sister Kamila.

The new range includes trainers, a hybrid shoe-trainer and monkstraps, all for around £250, and boat shoes that cost up to £340.

Goral boat shoes.

It also makes the ‘world’s first Blake-stitched trainers,’ which can be re-soled - part of drive to go green that includes using renewable power from May this year.

And it is experimenting with shoes made from off-cuts that would previously have been dumped, although using up to 20 pieces compared to four in a normal pair increase the labour cost. But there may be a market for them Dominik believes.

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Stitching leather at Goral.

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Goral boat shoes.