Bodileys in The Times

We want to put our best foot forward, but how?

Sarah Dudley wants to transform her family business’s focus from local to global, but is unsure how to take the first step.

  • The company Bodileys
  • What British shoemaker and retailer
  • Founded Northampton
  • Director Sarah Dudley
  • Operating since 1919
  • Sales £265,000 (projected for 2016)

Q Bodileys was established almost a century ago as a small retailer selling men’s shoes made by local manufacturers. I represent the fourth generation of the company and I want to grow it into an international operation. I’ve led the first steps into export and online sales and now, as well as selling footwear made by nearby shoemakers, we’ve begun making our own label of luxury shoes. I’ve brought in John Garner, formerly of Edward Green, to design our first collection. We’ve got a good story to tell about shoes made in Britain from the very best calf leather.

However, we are facing an uphill struggle when it comes to getting our own name established as a shoe brand in its own right. How can we begin to get our company’s name out there? One option I’m considering is expansion through international wholesale. Do you think that might help us to spread the word? Or are we better off taking it one market at a time? Perhaps we should focus on online sales rather than building retail networks as a route to expansion?

A You have a wonderful heritage, nearly 100 years of supporting manufacturing in Northampton, one of the world’s most famous shoe-making centres. You don’t shout about this enough from your website.

Potential customers are interested in how products like yours are produced and there should be plenty of opportunity to tell a great story about your business, your leather and your approach.

I have always found wholesale difficult. Buyers are fickle and ever-changing. There are few good ones and too often a brand will pay for their wholesaler’s mistakes, in the form of returns and cancelled orders. The profit margins for brand owners are lower.

It is Britain that you should be focusing on through consistent marketing of the Bodileys brand and by building a reputation. Begin your expansion by investing in your website and online marketing to recruit new customers. To do that, develop a more direct relationship with the consumer. Men will remain loyal once they have tried and liked a new brand and have become confident about sizing.

Awareness can be achieved through targeted public relations through quality magazines and online and through collaborations with complementary brands.

Finally, bear in mind that by selling other shoe brands you might risk detracting from your own and may suggest a lack of confidence in your own brand. It could be time to put your own shoes in the spotlight.

Expert view John Ayton, MBE, is the co-founder of Annoushka, the jeweller. He is also chairman of Bremont Watch Company and Orlebar Brown, a designer swimwear retailer

A The good news is you don’t need to invest a fortune to build a reputation. I put my story at the heart of my business, and you should do the same. You run a family business supporting traditional manufacturing skills and craftsmanship to produce high-quality footwear. It’s a great story and a labour of love. Why is this not apparent from your website?

I would begin investing in your online presence rather than in wholesale and export. Export is a cut-throat business. Think about dealing with wholesalers like a mobile phone contract: very easy to start, expensive to leave and particularly pricey when you’re abroad.

Start building up your business at home by making a video for your website providing an insight into the manufacturing process of Bodileys. I want to see the raw materials being cut, sewn and shaped. Explain that each pair of Bodileys is handmade in Northampton, in a process largely unchanged since the company was founded in 1919. Show all the stages of production, how many individual operations each shoe undergoes and how long the process takes.

Stable growth is about identifying a core customer base and then carefully scaling your operations profitably, slowly if necessarily. Too much growth, or growth with the wrong wholesalers, can be worse than a lack of it. You’ve been around for almost 100 years, so there’s no need to rush.

Expert view Pleurat Shabani is founder of Konik’s Tail, a Polish vodka stocked in more than 2,500 of the world’s leading bars

Buy British Day


This time last year Best of Britannia teamed up with founders of iconic Britsh brands to create the first ever ‘Buy British Day’.

British fashion is world renowned for its provinance and quality. The importance of consumer awareness is becoming increasingly important to keep alive the budding entrepreneurs, skilled craftsmen and tradition that we are so well known for.

Bodileys friend, ‘The Grey Fox Blog’, comments “In writing about British menswear brands for some years, I’ve come to realise that there is a common thread to them all. They all have fascinating stories to tell; stories about how they started, about their craftsmen and women, their suppliers or the raw materials they use. While my main interest is menswear, the idea of using a story to sell your products is easily transferrable to any industry and product.”

The Bodileys Story

Bodileys established in 1919, located in the heart of Northampton has gained its reputation as one of the most reliable representatives of the best handmade English shoes worldwide.

Bodileys is a family business, now run by it’s fourth generation. To this day, we use factories that are proudly based in the historical capital of cobblery where each shoe is hand made to the highest standards using traditional techniques.

Today, Bodileys exports 80% of their English made shoes globally. A key aim of Buy British Day is to encourage British consumers to recognise ‘Made In Britain’ as the stamp of quality it is seen as overseas.

The Union Jack Shoe

My Great Grandfather, George Webb, created the above shoe for the 1952 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. This is currently exhibited at the Northampton Shoe Museum.

Thank you for your interest in Bodileys and for Buying British.

Best Wishes,

Sarah Dudley, Bodileys


“Dear Sarah,

I have just received my order. Once again it has been a pleasure doing business with you.

I look forward to ordering my next pair of shoes.

Have a great day!”

June 15

“Hi Sarah,

My father told me the Boston loafer in size 9.5 fit him very well and I was very happy to hear that from him. I really like my pair too. I don’t know where we’d be without your expertise. I’m excited to get to the socks next time I have a chance to visit home.

Thank you again for everything!”

May 15

“Sarah you’re awesome..

Between my fetish and your flexibility and service this will be the makings of beautiful partnership.

Thanks again!”

May 15

“Thank you so much for the prompt delivery of my new shoes, they fit perfectly and look great, as do the socks which were a very pleasant surprise.

My compliments to you and Mr. Garner, these London collection is certainly a cut above, this last looks very elegant, even on my short fat feet!”

Dec 14

“The pair of lovely alligator shoes arrived this morning in time for my Christmas. I tried them out and find them exceptionally comfortable. Certainly they were hand made by a master craftsman and are very nice indeed. Thank you for your service to make this memorable purchasely. When I have a selfie with the shoes, will certainly send one over to you.”

Sydney. Dec 14.

“…just opened the box and my new shoes are … PERFECT !


Many thanks to have made this Bodileys “buying experience° so professional for me !

i will definitively look forward to other opportunities


Have a great Christmas season and a brilliant 2015”

December 2014

“Until Sunday, I’d only worn the shoes for short walks to and from the car, a total of a few hundred yards at most.

On Sunday, I went for a walk of just over two miles, and the shoes were blissfully comfortable, definitely the most immediately comfortable Goodyear welted shoes I’ve ever owned.

I own seven pairs of Church’s shoes dating from 1978 through to the mid-90s, and your shoes already beat most of them for comfort, due, I believe, to the particularly supple leather and well-chosen last.

It has been a pleasure dealing with you, and I’ll be buying from you again when I’m ready for my next pair.

Please feel free to use this communication as a testimonial in any way you please, if you so wish.

With kindest regards”

October 2014

“The shoes were just what I had pictured and as I was hoping they would be. They were well-crafted, high-quality and extremely comfortable shoes. The service was also very good. The shoes were packaged carefully in the original shoe box with individual plastic bags and included felt shoe bags. My package was shipped out the same day and was received in the US in less than a week. And on top of that, the package arrived with a complimentary pair of socks as well. I look forward to purchasing more shows from Bodiley’s in the near future!”

Atlanta, GA, USA

“Finally I managed to arrange the pick-up at my work with DHL today. And I can only say one thing: the shoes are totally outstanding, better than I ever could have imagined! The size 10F feels perfect, thank you so much for your recommendation. Also the pictures you sent showed exactly what the shoes looks like.

Tomorrow, the first thing I do in the morning is to put on my Lyndons and walk down the street towards the city!

Thank you Sarah again, Bodileys will be one of my first choices when I buy shoes next time. Maybe there are more Bodileys models (oxfords, semi brogues…) coming into stock than you have on your website?”

“hi sarah, i have worn them for 3 hours and they are just Great! I will get also the suede one….thats for sure 🙂 regards”

Thanks a lot, Sarah, for this elaborate guidance – super customer service!!! – Will check out AS as you suggest. Have a great day ☺

Let me say that it has been a pleasure dealing with you. I will definitely purchase something with Bodileys in the future as your immaculate service has given me the confidence and assurance to do so. Thank you again. Best regards

I have just put the order through the website and hopefully i will get my shoes soon!!!! very excited. Just wanted to write to you to say that THANK YOU very much through this process i have asked more than enough questions and you have provided with very acceptable answers. thanks again and i look forward to wearing the lyndon II and if they are better than C&J then i think you have yourself a converter haha Regards

I have just received information that my parcel that I have sent to you was delivered to you this morning.

As the online shop of Lindt did not give me any chance to add a little note, here what it should have read:

Thank you very very much, your customer service is just absolutely perfect. Hope you like the Swiss Choc. 😉 Regards

Sarah, that’s made my weekend and firmly established you as one of the best Internet shoe companies in the world! Many thanks

And, before I say good-bye, please allow me to say how exemplary I find you, Bodiley’s and your service to be. I would say 100%, but I don’t think that is good enough! Best

I received the parcel today. The Moore shoes are so nice. As are the belts. Great fit on everything.

I am very happy and satisfied.

Thank you very much for your top notch service! Looking forward to doing business with you again. Have a great weekend!

Best regards

Everything has just arrived safe and sound – two beautiful pairs of shoes, which fit very well indeed.

Thanks again for all your help and the lovely socks.

I hope to be in touch again soon with another order! Kind regards

Thank you Sarah, Wonderful service in a worldclass! Definitely not my last pair shoes by your site..

When We Wear Our Pocket Squares

Silk can conjure up all sorts of ideas; a sumptuous bed, the touch of skin or the image of luxury itself, but for one reason or another silk can get a bad rep in men’s fashion. Yes we are all quietly pleased when our socks or jumpers come with subtle silk blend, but when it comes to the pure silk items, the scarves or the pocket squares for instance, men can have a tendency to shy away. Being so close to a considered fashion choice can often cause discomfort..

However this is where we at Bodiley’s like to step in; don’t make the fatal mistake of thinking that silk is just reserved for the jackets of dandy’s or the shirts of Russian billionaires. No no, the right silk item can give even a tired outfit a look of casual and easy style, and that is certainly not something to shy away from..

Let’s focus on pocket squares. These can be one of the most stylish and easy pieces in your wardrobe. Simply stuff one in a jacket pocket as you are leaving the house and watch yourself transform in to an icon of style and charm.

See this before and after image



So for those interested in looking a little less like David Brent and a little more like Cary Grant, here is a simple tip to get the most from your pocket squares.

Remember Contrast

They say that variety is the spice of life, and a good outfit is a spicy one so always remember contrast. Pocket squares often get a lot of stick from being accompanied with a classic silk neck tie, too much silk is over whelming. If you are wanting to get a silk pocket square involved, try to pair it with something decidedly more matt like a wool or cashmere necktie. The same can be applied to a jacket. Too much sheen is never ideal but a subtle flash of patterned silk safely tucked into the pocket of a tweed, linen or flannel suit looks fantastic. A good outfit is like a good meal, its all about the textures.

And there you have it! A simple tip that will have you looking and feeling fantastic though remember the only thing better than wearing a good silk pocket square is to wear a good silk pocket square with an equally good pair of shoes..


Date Night







Shoes really are a must on date night. Bare feet never seem to go down particularly well, so make sure you have on your Wilton shoes when preparing to impress that special someone.

We recommend Chez Bruce in Wandsworth, deemed one of the best restaurants in London and really rather romantic.

A Lovely Country Walk







We have loved spending the lingering summer afternoons walking in the beautiful Barnwell Country Park, Northamptonshire. The only thing that we can think of that tops a stroll by one of the picturesque lakes is, a stroll by one of the picturesque lakes wearing a good sturdy pair of Grafton boots.







A Wedding







A wedding is truly a special occasion, and definitely a time where shoes are an absolute must. Our classic Eaton shoes in black should stand you in good stead, and avoid some unwanted scowls from the bride.

A Drive







There is nothing quite a summer’s drive in the country to get the blood flowing. And nothing better for pumping that gas than our Bodileys Arthur Driving shoe in delightful orange for added flair.


Boating with the boys







The open sea, the true freedom of the wind and the might of an endless ocean underneath you, powerful stuff… but made much less impactful if you stub your toe fumbling around with the boom. Our Bodileys Baker shoe should prevent that, and keep you looking jolly stylish at the same time








A Seaside Stroll









Make the most of this fast dwindling English summer in true traditional British form… by the seaside. Mirror the blue of the sky while guarding from molten curry sauce at the local fish and chippy with our Bodileys Scott boat shoes in blue.


Lost In London

Welcome to our London Collection Competition!

where am i

Our Bodileys biker has got lost in London and he needs your help finding his way! All you have to do is tell us which street he’s on in the photograph above for the chance to win 20% off The London Collection.

Email your answer to to find out whether you’ve won!

Not from London? We’ll play fair, email now and we’ll give you a clue!

Buy British Day

Yesterday Best of Britannia unveiled Buy British Day which is to take place on Friday October 3rd 2014 to coincide with the first consumer day of the annual Best of Britannia event. The Day will focus attention on the provenance and quality of the huge range of great products produced in Britain.

The panel included Timothy Everest (left) and Willian Church of Cheaney Shoes (2nd from right)

The panel included Timothy Everest (left) and Willian Church of Cheaney Shoes (2nd from right)

I will revisit this event later in the year. As I’ve said many times on this blog, it is ironic that British products (menswear in particular) are appreciated more overseas than at home for their quality and heritage. Buy British Day has been launched to change that.

Please support Buy British Day on the 3rd October by seeking out the fantastic range of British-produced goods on offer throughout the UK or at Best of Britannia.


From Moor to Palace, the Tour De France has whipped the U.K. into a cycling frenzy. With a whopping 6 million people lining streets all the way down the country to get a glimpse of the battle for poll position, this really is the time for you to don your finest cycling gear!


Though if the yellow jersey is little too bright for your taste our Pantherella Long yellow cotton Socks may the perfect compromise..

Worn With:

Shoes: Chester Blue Suede Derby Shoes

Trousers: Timothy Everest Olive Cotton Blend Two Piece Suit

Jacket: Timothy Everest Navy Blue Large Check Single-Breasted Jacket

London Collections:Men SS15 – Grey Fox’s picks

I didn’t get to any big shows at London Collections:Men, so was able to spend some time delving into the brands on display in the Designer Showrooms, both ready to wear and accessories. I find it very exciting seeing the creativity and enterprise on display among the smaller labels; some new, some not; some made in the UK, some not – all with great ideas.

There were many labels that caught my eye; here is a quick pick of their SS15 collections. I hope to write about many in more detail in future. Where possible, I have given the brand’s website so you can contact them to find out more.

TOBEFRANK of England

A young brand priding itself on the traditions of British menswear. I met the founder, Frank Phillips, and a lady who knits her knitwear from wool from her own flock of Jacob sheep – what a great story, and one I’d like to cover in more detail soon. See Tobefrank’s website.

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This collection of British-made men’s shirts will not appear until SS15, but the quality and design are superb. Again, I hope to tell you more soon. Meanwhile see the Indefinitely Wild website here.




I’ve spoken about this designer before – his beautifully tailored jackets, with clever and humorous twists on conventional designs, are a joy to behold. Look carefully at the lapel of this pinstripe jacket…






Well-established now, but a firm favourite of mine. See Universal Works.



An established British-made brand making a comeback – I hope to cover Gloverall in a future post.



I liked the clean lines and beautiful fabrics of this collection, about which I know little. I will remedy that and write more about them on the blog soon. I loved this wool and silk summer jacket (with matching trousers) in this rather poor iPhone shot, but hope you get the idea – it could have been made for me. See Mr Start.



An interesting young brand with some lovely beach/summer wear. I’m waiting to hear from them with more information and images, meanwhile, here’s one from my iPhone that will give an idea. Website here, but seemed not to work when I last tried.



A favourite of mine and I’ve talked about them before. Outstanding design and British manufacture. See Marwood’s website.



Alice makes beautiful men’s accessories, in particular cuff links and pins, like the exquisite example below, in England using traditional techniques and her product design experience. See Alice Made This website.



Campbell Cole’s leather bags and accessories are objects of design and manufacturing perfection; beautifully-made and presented. A young brand that we will hear much more of. For more information, see Campbell Cole’s website.



Wimbledon fever has hit the capital in full force, and if there is one thing we do well in England, it’s put on a good tennis tournament. Another thing we know how to do well is dress for a tennis tournament. Year in and year out we see some seriously dapper attire descending on SW19 and we absolutely love it. So if you’re lucky enough to be seeing Murray from center court or Federer from Henman hill, check out our latest range to look the part.

Image courtesy of