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Exports And Independents Will Fuel Growth

Growth has been fueled by long-term relationships with chains. Currently around 70% of sales are to chains and wholesalers, and all but the odd container is for local consumption. Domestically, AK believes the independents - outfitters are general dealers rather than shoe shops - are due to make a comeback, and that some of them are already climbing as chain sales, generally remain fairly static.

The European Union, specifically the UK, along with the Middle East are the areas where he has agents. The group competes almost exclusively in the most price sensitive areas of the market - not necessarily cheap footwear, but footwear which is competitive with almost anything else similar, local or imported. As such, it goes head-to-head with imports, and it has succeeded, he says, “because of my ranges and my price points are built around my clientele, not the other way around - whether it's foot covering or top end footwear, I want to make something affordable." He has invested in high tech equipment, like the CAD and automatic cutting systems, because "that makes economic sense". But essentially, he says, he has succeeded because "you have to grow all the time, and you have to diversify very quickly".

Not once in those eight years of sustained growth has he felt "seriously at risk", and nor has he felt lonely. "I'm not looking past this present project," he says. "If we succeed in exports, I'll look again - perhaps rent out the factories and concentrate on distribution - but that's long term."