The famous British shoemaking firm Alfred Sargent has gone bust. After not being able to pay its debts and becoming insolvent, the company was put in what’s called “voluntary liquidation” two weeks ago. The fine company out of Rushden, Northampton, have been in big troubles and managed to climb back again before, but this is their toughest situation yet.
Alfred Sargent was founded in 1899 by the man bearing that name, together with his two sons Harry and Frank. It was set up in Rushden, and have remained in the city west of Northampton town ever since. They moved to the current premises at 1915, where they were the first factory with electrics in the village. Being one of the old players in Northampton, they ended up struggling around the turn of the new millennium. They went bankrupt in 2009 after the global financial crisis, went into administration, and in 2012 it was taken over by the large French shoe company Manbow, owners of brands like for example Bowen and Manfield. Up until now it was run by the fourth generation of Sargents, Paul and Andrew, together with two French brothers Frédéric and Nicolas Thierry from Manbow.
Alfred Sargent did a good job with reinventing themselves after the crisis in 2009, among other things they took stuff they had learned from when Gaziano & Girling first operated in the Sargent factory a few years after 2006 before they moved to their own premises, and created the Alfred Sargent Exclusive and Handgrade ranges. Both were really impressive in terms of make and spec for the price ranges they were found in, and have been praised by many around the world. For some reason the ranges never really took off in the way one would expect them to, the finer Handgrade range was discontinued after a few years, and the Exclusive range lost a bit of its finer details and were seen to a lesser and lesser extent at retailers in the UK and abroad. Instead more and more of the capacity in the factory went into making Bowen branded shoes especially for the French market, although they of course continued making Sargent shoes and also shoes for other companies. In 2018 about 60% of the 35 000 pairs produced yearly were made for Bowen, 20% as Alfred Sargent, and rest for other brands.
Last year was tough for the company, where both corona and forthcoming Brexit did its toll. The company became insolvent, which means it could no longer pay its debts, and at January 28th it went into what’s called “voluntary liquidation”, where the company owners see no other resolution than start winding-up the company. According to info to Shoegazing the first week after closing was a bit turbulent, with brands who had shoes in the locked factory who couldn’t get info on the situation etc. Now the liquidators have started to sell off the company assets, supposedly another British shoe company have bought the machinery (unconfirmed), and rest of the assets are to be sold off as well to cover as much as possible of the company debts.
There’s still some possibilities for the brand Alfred Sargent to live on, in one way or the other (for example a Paul Sargent Shoes Ltd. was started last September, whatever that may mean), but as it looks now the saga as we know it with the Sargent factory in Rushden might now end after 122 years of service. It sure is sad.
On this topic, I do remind you on what I wrote about in this article recently, on helping the classic shoe industry.
NOTE: I have contacted Alfred Sargent and representatives of the company several times, both via e-mail and in various social media, without getting any reply on questions on the situation. I have also contacted the liquidators, also no responses from them.
UPDATE: The reason that I received no replies when contacting Sargent is due to the fact that all e-mails and social media was closed off on the day of liquidation, so Sargent representatives has no access anymore. This according a member of the Sargent family. No info in the article seem to be be incorrect, and I’m looking at getting more info for the Sargent family on the situation, which I will hopefully be able to share on the blog.