Shoe Repairer

The Job and What's Involved

Footwear can be an expensive purchase, so many people make their shoes and boots last longer by taking them to a shoe repairer. Shoe repairers provide a range of services, including replacing worn soles and heels, repairing loose stitching and replacing broken buckles, zips and eyelets. They may also repair other leather goods, such as briefcases and handbags. Some shoe repairers provide a 'while you wait' service for simple repairs.

Duties vary according to the type of repairs carried out, but in general they include:

  • Greeting customers.
  • Examining footwear and deciding on the best techniques and materials to repair them.
  • Telling the customer how much repairs will cost.
  • Using a numbered tag or ticket, which stays with the shoes throughout the repair process and ensures that they are returned to the right owner.
  • Repairing shoes using tools such as pincers, compressed air staple guns, nail guns, hammers, electric trimmers, specialist sewing machines and roughing machines.
  • Replacing worn-out soles and heels.
  • Carrying out more complicated repairs, such as renewing stitching and welts.
  • Staining leather soles and heels to match the rest of the shoe.
  • Dyeing shoes to a colour chosen by the customer.
  • Cleaning and polishing shoes.
  • Replacing accessories, including buckles, laces, zips and straps.
  • Selling items, such as new footwear, shoe polish, laces and insoles.
  • Taking cash, cheque or credit card payments.
  • Maintaining and servicing cutting tools and other equipment.
  • Keeping records of repairs and sales and ordering stock.

Most shoe repairers offer a range of other services, which could include:

  • Key cutting, using a specialist cutting machine and metal blanks to duplicate keys.
  • Engraving, to customise items, such as pet tags, nameplates and trophies.
  • Changing watch batteries and watch straps.
  • Locksmith services.
  • Dry cleaning.

It is also possible to specialise in repairing expensive handmade shoes or orthopaedic footwear. These areas often require a set of specialist skills and knowledge usually built up by experience in the work.

Most shoe repairers work a set number of hours a week, which usually includes Saturdays. Shoe repairers working within department stores, supermarkets or shopping malls may also have to work during the evenings and on Sundays. Part-time work may be available. There are also opportunities for self-employment.

Shoe repairers work indoors in high street shops, department stores, large supermarkets, shopping centres and indoor markets. They may spend a lot of time standing.

Those who repair orthopaedic footwear tend to work for small specialist companies that also make such footwear.

Tools and machinery are used in repairing shoes. The machinery is often noisy and may produce dust or metal filings. Adhesives and polishes may produce unpleasant fumes. Health and safety awareness is important, as tools and materials can be dangerous if used incorrectly. Protective clothing is usually required, including overalls and goggles.

During training, shoe repairers may earn around £9,800 to £12,000 a year. With experience, this may rise to between £13,000 and £17,000 a year. Shop managers may earn around £21,000 a year.

Some large shoe repair chains have a bonus scheme that is linked to productivity targets.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are around 3,000 shoe repairers in the UK. Employers range from small businesses employing very few staff to large national chains with outlets in many towns. Some shoe repairers are self-employed. There are opportunities throughout the UK, mostly in towns and cities.

Vacancies are advertised in Connexions centres, Jobcentre Plus offices and local newspapers.

Education and Training

There are no minimum qualifications to become a shoe repairer, but candidates should have numeracy skills to be able to handle money and deal with measurements. Some employers ask applicants to take an aptitude test, which is likely to focus on practical ability, English and maths.

It may be possible to train for this career through an Apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is done on the job and new entrants work under the supervision of an experienced colleague. There is likely to be training in customer service, as well as in practical skills. Some larger companies operate a training scheme where new employees spend time at a national or regional training centre.

Shoe repairers can gain recognition for their skills and experience by working towards an Award, Certificate or Diploma in shoe repair, key cutting and associated multi-services or an NVQ/QCF qualification in footwear repair at Levels 2 and 3.

Shoe repairers may receive training in the safe handling of chemicals and solvents and the safe use of tools and machinery.

Experienced shoe repairers working for large chains may receive training in management and leadership skills.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Shoe repairers should:

  • Be good at working with their hands.
  • Be able to work methodically, accurately and quickly.
  • Pay attention to detail.
  • Be able to assess repairs and estimate costs.
  • Be able to follow health and safety procedures.
  • Have customer service skills.
  • Have good eyesight, for stitching and other detailed work, and normal colour vision, for matching colours.
  • Have listening skills to take instructions from customers and colleagues.
  • Be able to work well on their own.
  • Be able to complete repairs in a limited time.
  • Be adaptable and willing to learn a number of different skills.
  • Be confident dealing with payments and change.
  • Be able to stand for long periods.
  • Have business skills if self-employed.

Your Long Term Prospects

Promotion opportunities are more limited in smaller businesses. Premises that are part of a large chain may offer opportunities for promotion to store manager, relief manager and area manager as well as positions in head office.

It is possible for experienced shoe repairers to set up their own business, possibly with a franchise, although they must be prepared to invest in premises and equipment.

Get Further Information

British Footwear Association (BFA),
3 Burystead Place, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire NN8 1AH
Tel: 01933 229005
Website: www.britfoot.com

Skillset, Focus Point,
21 Caledonian Road,
London N1 9GB
Tel: 020 7713 9800
Website: www.skillset.org/careers

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