We are very proud of our domestic manufacturing which is a core value of New Balance - we don’t just sell shoes, we manufacture them. Domestic manufacturing advances the objectives: responsiveness to customers, inventory management and differentiation in the marketplace.
New Balance shoes have been available to the British market since 1978, when Chris Brasher (Olympic Gold Medallist and pacer for Roger Bannister when he broke the 4 minute mile) became the UK’s first distributer with his company Fleetfoot. Chris Brasher was a huge advocate of New Balance Shoes, likening them to a Rolls Royce ‘The most comfortable ride’ and New Balance quickly became his number one brand.
After a visit by Jim Davis and John Wilson Cumbria was chosen, partly as there was already a pool of skilled staff due to other shoe factories in the area.
And so, in August 1982, New Balance’s first factory in the UK opened in Workington, Cumbria in the picturesque Lake District, initially employing just 40 people. In 1991 the factory was relocated to larger more modern premises in Flimby, Maryport.
In 1982 when the factory first opening it employed just 40 people. We now employ over 210 highly skilled associates. Remarkably the factory still has 5 staff that started in 1982 that still work for us.
OUR COMMUNITY - FLIMBY
Flimby sits in the heart of Cumbria and the Lake District, one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty, serving as inspiration for artists, writers and musicians. It is a mountainous region and is home to both the highest point in England (Scafell Pike, at 978 meters, and Windermere, the largest natural lake in England).
Flimby has a population of approximately 2000 and has has existed as a community since at least the 11th century. Like many other villages in the area over the years it has been through some far reaching changes.
For the most part the area was originally reliant on farming until the Industrial Revolution when it turned its back on its agricultural heritage and turned to mining as it main source of employment and income.
However, the decline in the mining industry in the 80’s greatly affected the area and like many other local communities since then Flimby has been trying to fill the vacuum and cope with the economic and social consequences of large scale unemployment.
New Balance is one of the big employers in the area.
The UK factory is a real success story, continuing to grow as demand increases. Currently employing a production team of over 210, production runs at around 28,000 pairs of shoes a week with demand for even more.
Flimby derives nearly 90% of sales revenues from exports (we export our products to more than 50 countries including as far afield as Japan and Hong Kong), with 40% of all footwear sold going to European markets.
In 1982, in the first 3 months New Balance produced 10,500 pairs of shoes and in 1983, its first full year, this number was 74,400.
The first shoes to come off the production line were Lou Whittaker 710 Hiker and 615 Walking.
In 1984, responding to local interests the Workington factory began to manufacture football boots. For two years members of the Professional Football Association wear tested the product following which they held a press conference in Manchester announcing its independent endorsement of the New Balance boot - this kind of unpaid endorsement was unheard of even then. Bryan Robson who was the captain of England at the time collaborated with New Balance to design the series and wore them for the rest of his career.
Our designers often take our associates and our community as inspiration to produce heritage collections with a unique New Balance twist. To celebrate 30 years of UK manufacture the 576 ‘Cutting Room Pack’ was created. Inspired by three of Flimby’s most dedicated shoemakers (Billy, Andy and Roy), they use different material, based on their creators’ respective interests and character. These were released in August 2012.
1985 Our First Royal Visit
On a cold rainy day of 1985, HRH Prince Charles paid a visit to the Workington manufacturing facility. He was met by Jim Davis along with several other New Balance Executives and was accompanied on an in-depth tour. The Prince spoke to many associates along the way asking questions about the work they did.
2004 The Queens Award for Enterprise
The Queen’s Award for Enterprise was won by meeting the rigorous standard of the Award’s selection process and is regarded as a clear indicator of New Balance’s high standards, powerful commercial performance and commitment to manufacturing in Britain.
2011 HRH Prince Edward Visits Flimby
In May 2011 HRH The Earl of Wessex visited New Balance’s Flimby factory in Cumbria, highlighting the shoe manufacturer’s ’commitment to domestic production’. As part of the visit, Prince Edward was given a private tour of the factory and was presented with a pair of personalised shoes made at the factory.