Church’s – British Shoemakers since 1873
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An Introduction to the Church’s Shoes Brand
Church’s shoes was founded in 1873 by Thomas Church and his three sons in Northampton, not far from London. In a few short years, the family brand was transformed from a craft workshop into a benchmark firm for high-quality footwear – both locally and for the most demanding shoe shops in London and throughout Great Britain. The Church’s brand expanded into the overseas market in the early 20th century, and has continued to do so following a successful takeover from fashion house Prada in 1999, who continued to drive brand expansion. As of 2011, Church’s Shoes had become a global brand selling throughout the UK and all over the world in countries including Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, USA, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Church’s Shoes: A Timeline Snapshot
- 1873: Church’s was founded by Thomas Church and his three sons Alfred, William and Thomas Jr. in Northampton.
- 1884: One of the earliest Church’s styles, the Adaptable, wins a Gold Medal at the Crystal Palace Exhibition. The Adaptable was a versatile shoe, coming in pairs of left and right, and different widths, which was unusual for the time.
- Early 20th Century: Church’s begins exporting outside Europe expanding into new markets in the US, Canada and South America.
- 1921: The first standalone Church’s store opens in London. Also this year the first women’s shoe is introduced signifying a change in society, in which women and fashion were becoming more prominent.
- 1957: A new Church’s factory opens in Northampton, which remains the brand’s headquarters.
- 1965: Church’s receives the Queens Award for Exports.
- 1999: Church’s agreed to a takeover bid from Italian fashion giant, Prada, fighting off interest from another Italian fashion house Diego Della Valle.
- 2001: Church’s sells Jones the Bootmaker to a UK consortium in a £17 million deal.
- 2003: Prada hits financial trouble and is forced to sell a 45% stake in the company to the private equity firm Equinox.
- 2006: Prada regains full control of Church’s Shoes from Equinox.
- 2009: Church’s launches its own e-commerce site, with shipping available throughout Europe.
The Prada Takeover of Church’s Shoes
In September 2009, Prada bought an 8.5% stake in the company. Less than a month later Prada offered Church’s 950 pence per share for the remainder of the stocks, valuing Church’s at £106 million. Chairman and great-grandson of Church’s founder, John Church, agreed to the deal, citing the benefits of such a takeover. “Prada is committed to developing the Church’s brand and to continuing footwear manufacture at Northampton,” he said. Upon the takeover, Prada stated that they were keen to preserve the status and British identity of Church’s Shoes.
It is my firm intention to maintain and possibly strengthen the British identity of Church & Co by preserving and developing its industrial presence in Northampton and by enhancing the role of the management team. – Patrizio Bertelli, Chief Executive, Prada.
However, it wasn’t a smooth takeover; Italian shoes and bags company, Diego Della Valle, also showed interest in the Church’s Shoes brand. In the summer of 2009 Diego Della Valle bought a 7.76% stake in Church’s, which prompted Prada to purchase the 8.51% stake in the brand. Shortly afterwards, Diego Della Valle increased their stake to 8.64%. However, it was Prada who made the quicker progress managing to secure an irrevocable undertaking of partnership from Church & Co directors and other shareholders. The combined shareholding of this group amounted to 33% of the shares.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Prada hit financial trouble with debts believed to be in the region of £690 million. In late 2001, Prada were forced to sell its 25% stake in handbag maker, Fendi, which it had acquired just 15 months previously for €295 million. At the time, there were also rumours of Prada having to sell their Jil Sander and Helmut Lang labels, so it perhaps came as little surprise, when in 2003, Prada announced they were selling a 45% stake in Church’s to private equity firm Equinox. Prada claimed the financial partnership with Equinox, which is owned by a consortium of Italian banks and industrial companies, would allow implementation of an important growth and expansion plan for the Church’s brand.
In late 2006, Prada announced they were planning on regaining full control of Church’s Shoes by buying back the 45% stake in the brand it sold to Equinox 3 years previously. The decision to regain control of the Church’s brand was thought to come as part of negotiations that Prada conducted with Banca Intesa, one of the owners of Equinox. In December of 2006, Prada regained control of the stake sold to Equinox for an undisclosed sum, believed to be in the region of €50 million. At the time Church’s was retailing from over 40 countries and had 26 standalone stores. Upon regaining control, Prada announced that they were planning on doubling Church’s retail store network in the next three years, opening new stores in the most important markets in the Far East, Japan, Europe and the US.
Visit the official Church’s website here
If you like the look of Church’s check out other British labels such as Loake and Clarks