Expansion for Carrick shoe retailer as it sets up shop in heart of Belfast
A quality shoe retailer that helps to shod the feet of Ulster Rugby players is to open a new outlet at a prestigious location in Belfast city centre at the end of this month.
Robinson's Shoes will set up shop at Queen's Arcade, beside landmark tenant Lunn's Jeweller's. The six-figure development will see the creation of six jobs.
CEO Robin Stewart says that the Belfast opening is just a "stepping stone in city retail".
"We would certainly like to set up with a view to other UK cities and perhaps the Republic of Ireland as well."
Mr Stewart indicated that although the family firm has a retail outlet in Carrickfergus, which will remain open, 90% of its business is online.
"We have built the company from very little over the last six or seven years. It has been hard going. It has meant a few years of very hard work. It is now starting to come to fruition. The business has grown every year since we first started."
Robinson's sells shoes in 106 countries. Mr Stewart added: "We have been really concentrating on growing a worldwide business and we are now getting a physical presence. Carrick has been great but we have been toying with the idea for two or three years."
He has attributed the firm's success to "old-fashioned values" such as quality product and quality service.
"I think people are wanting that now. If people are being treated properly and are getting a high quality product, they are willing to pay a bit extra."
He stressed that although Robinson's stocks "good quality high end" brands, such as Barker, Dubarry and Tricker's, it is by no means exclusive.
"Our shoes are not thousands of pounds. It is just good quality stuff."
Robinson's is the official supplier of footwear to Ulster Rugby.
"We have fitted 105 of the guys... just four have been wearing the right size shoes," he revealed.
Mr Stewart estimated that 95% of men wear the wrong size shoes, some of them at least a size-and-a-half too large.
The company has also had commissions to design and manufacture bespoke brogues for celebrities including Game Of Thrones actor Ian McElhinney and sportsmen such as the boxers Carl Frampton and Paddy Barnes as well as Levi Roots, the creator of the Reggae Reggae sauce brand.
Robinson's Shoemakers was established in Carrickfergus as a repair business in 1954.
Mr Stewart bought it from his father-in-law Billy Robinson, who retired in 1996.
He says it has developed to become what he believes to be one of the biggest retailers of quality shoes in the UK, if not internationally, due to the company's online presence, by specialising in luxury handmade shoes for men and women.