- Tell us what the London Shoe Shine company is all about? I see from your website that you offer a wide range of different services.
We at London Shoeshine are trying to show that shoe shining is more than just a street trader service for busy bankers! It has grown from its original humble street roots into a large European wide luxury service for all types of brands. This relatively simple idea has been adapted and updated to cover a vast number of different uses.
We also offer a home visiting service, for those people with lots of shoes but no time to bring them to us…….so we go to them!! We visit many houses in the Mayfair and Maida Vale areas of London. This is a fairly recent idea but one which has really taken off.
- This is a rather unique business model. Where did you get the idea to start it?
I started un-licenced shoe shining in Leadenhall Market in the City of London in 1994, mainly for the traders from the L.I.F.F.E (futures and options) floor in Cannon St. I was there for a year and decided to spread my wings further afield. I opened a licenced pitch on London’s Regent St. in 1995. This turned out to be more of a curiosity for tourists than a big money earner, so I then moved to Heathrow Terminal 1 Domestic to work for someone else. But all along I knew there was more potential further east in the “New City “. When most of the traders moved from traditional “open outcry” trading to computer screen trading in the late 90’s, they mainly went to shiny new purpose built skyscrapers in Canary Wharf and I followed!!
- Where was your first Shoeshine location and how did you get your initial customers?
There was a shoe repair shop inside the shopping centre at Canary Wharf, with an old style American shoeshine chair that was originally used at Washington Dulles Airport. The shop were about to close the shoeshine service down as they were struggling to get customers. I was aware that there were a couple of US Investment banks based nearby, namely Morgan Stanley and Bear Stearns. Plenty of potential customers, as shoe shining has always been an important part of American banking culture. Within a week of me taking over we had trebled the customer count and Bear Stearns had me coming up to their 2 trading floors daily with a mini shoeshine box.
This carried on for a couple of years and traders started telling other traders from other banks about me, and soon I needed more staff. The shoe shiners I got each ran their own “mini business” using my brand but being self-employed. We then added contracts with Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, Barclays and JP Morgan, where we introduced a regular daily mobile shoeshine service that visits each floor of their particular buildings.
- I particularly like the idea of the exhibition stands and the way that other companies can use it to retain a captive audience, whose idea was that or how did that come about?
We started doing promotional work for various brands. This would involve us supplying a shoeshine chair and operators and offering free shines to passers-by (if we were at an exhibition) or customers (if we were working for a shop) in order to catch people’s attention and hold them “captive” whilst a particular sales message was relayed to the person in the shoeshine chair. This has proved really popular, and has taken me all over Europe to Geneva, Barcelona (twice), Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Rome and even Monaco!! We are also finding huge demand for our services at Store Openings and Product Launches.
Looking to the future where do you think the most significant growth will occur in the company in the next few years? What new products or services do you plan to implement? Are you planning to extend your service to other major cities?
A new “patina” service is being launched next month, along with our own brand polish and cream. We are also lining up with potential partners to expand even further into the corporate hospitality market……watch this space!
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