A shoe store manager who has become the heart and sole of the industry during a career spanning 40 years is about to step into a top job.
Rosemary Gray (61), manageress of North Shoes, in Westgate, Peterborough, will become president of the Society of Shoe Fitters in March.
She is looking forward to her two-year spell as president and will be installed at an SSF council meeting in London.
Rosemary, who lives in Newborough, said: “I feel it’s an achievement in the shoe industry – recognition of the work the society does and a real honour for me.”
In addition to managing the North Shoes store in Peterborough, Rosemary spends one day a week at the family firm’s store in Red Lion Street, Stamford, and trains the full-time staff at its shops in
Peterborough, Stamford, North Street, Bourne, and Rose Crescent, Cambridge.
On her days off she tutors and lectures up and down the country for the SSF, having trained literally hundreds of shoe store staff members.
She said: “The SSF is facing its biggest challenge – shoe fitting as a trade is dying.
“Shop staff are told to put money in tills and get shoes off the shelves - but very few of them know much about foot health.
“It’s so important – wrong fitting shoes can damage ankles, knees, backs and even cause migraine.
“The SSF has a lot of projects on the go to make people aware of the importance of shoe fitting – and we have lobbied the government to bring in a law requiring shoes sold on the internet to carry a health warning.”
Rosemary began as a shoe store worker in Oxfordshire in 1974.
She said: “I decided then I would put my all into learning about fitting shoes.
“In those days it was done by hand and eye.
“I absolutely love it. I’m 61 now and I don’t think I’ll ever retire!
“I still get satisfaction when I have guided a customer through their problems and found them the right shoes.
“The job satisfaction is there every day.
“You can pick up so many conditions through looking at people and their feet closely – we picked up autism with one child that the parents hadn’t even realised.”
Laura West, secretary of the SSF, said: “Rosemary is quite simply one of the finest shoe fitters in the country.
“The Society are delighted she will become our President in 2017 and appreciate the many hundreds of students she has mentored over the years on behalf of the SSF, and the service she has provided freely to the public.
“Before North Shoes bought the Peterborough shop it had closed for a few months.
“Rosemary is the only shoe fitter that has elicited phone calls from the public in desperation asking where she had gone.
“Her work with some of the finest hospitals based in Cambridgeshire is testament to her skill and knowledge and we are proud to have her as our ambassador.”
James North, managing director of North Shoes, added: “Rosemary is unique. Her job is a vocation – what she doesn’t know about orthotics and foot health isn’t worth knowing.
“She has a huge list of customers who want to see her on her three days in Peterborough and one day at Stamford.
“She has a wonderful way with customers, especially with children who have special needs.
“She does it because she loves it. And she never shouts about herself – we found out about her presidency of the SSF by accident.”