World Footwear


Jane Wilson, Chairman of BFA: as one collective voice, we are much stronger

Sep 16, 2022 United Kingdom
Jane Wilson, Chairman of BFA: as one collective voice, we are much stronger
We spoke with footwear veteran Jane Wilson, recently named Chairman of the British Footwear Association (BFA), about the role of the Association in the current challenging macroenvironment and the main challenges for the British footwear industry in the future
As the British Footwear Association (BFA) approaches its 125th anniversary at such a "historically turbulent period of much change", "it is more important than ever for the BFA to be relevant and at the centre of the debate on the key issues facing the industry", "connecting people, institutions and services to provide cohesive support to individuals and businesses", reinforced Jane Wilson, the newly appointed Chairman of the Association.

"We are certainly facing a difficult time; I am expecting next year to be very challenging indeed", she admits, looking into the new 40-year high inflation rate of 10.1% recorded last month in the UK. "The inflationary pressures are outside of the control of the industry and will absolutely affect all consumers. As such, they simply exist and will impact sales as demand reduces", she furthered.

The current macroeconomic situation is yet another cold shower for the British footwear industry, after the difficulties introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, which "was catastrophic for the British footwear industry" and the "ongoing challenges in terms of logistics and administration" following the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU on the 31st of January 2020.

Wilson, who is also CEO of the William Lamb Group and has worked her entire career in the footwear industry, defends that "at times like this, businesses should focus on their core area of competency to 'ride the storm' until markets and external pressures stabilise. Quality products, good service and strong brands can pull through. I believe in keeping things simple, getting the basics right, communicating with suppliers and customers more than ever to keep the core of the business strong until the storm has passed”.


"The industry has not yet found balance and a new normal", she claims, as "the immediate impact of Brexit was somewhat masked by the onset of the Covid pandemic, and the emergency situation imposed".

In the view of BFA, some key underlying Brexit challenges remain unresolved. "Doing business from the UK into the EU and vice versa is more complicated, not least from an administrative point of view; and has added significant cost and time delay to many transactions. We are still hearing daily of customs challenges, and warnings from businesses both, EU and UK, that they intend to stop trade across the channel; or are moving on one direction or the other", detailed Jane Wilson.

Moreover, it is vital to solve the Irish Border issue, "which will undoubtedly be high on the agenda for the new UK Prime Minister", the conservative Liz Truss.

BFA's Role

In the meantime, "BFA will continue to provide support to all footwear businesses by maintaining conversations across the industry, understanding the challenges faced and keeping an open dialogue with the Government to ensure that it understands the issues that matter to our footwear companies", she guarantees, recalling, for instance, the role of the Association during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, its role was critical in talking with the Government about the introduction of the furlough scheme, which enabled businesses to keep their staff even though they were unable to work for many months, and working to change government guidance on footwear quarantining from 72 hours to 24 hours and less with application via anti-viral treatments.

Additionally, "Lucy Reece Raybould, CEO of BFA and her team worked tirelessly to keep the industry connected and provide support through discussion groups and What’s App connectivity for retail, suppliers and individuals", ensuring that footwear businesses understood how each new government initiative or directive affected their business.


"The British footwear industry has some great brands with fantastic heritage and is also a thriving albeit changing industry", Jane Wilson emphasizes. "I do think that it is important to keep relevant and respond to the needs of consumers, so constant innovation lies at the heart of maintaining a successful, healthy UK industry".

Therefore, she believes that retaining talent, investing in people, skills, and technology is a priority for the industry. In addition, BFA's Chairman finds it crucial to address the "ongoing and difficult challenges with the supply side to the industry, as external global pressures make a real impact on the relatively stable supply lines that have been in place for the last 25 years", and stresses the importance of becoming less dependent on the Far East and work towards a more dispersed approach to sourcing product". 

At last, "there is the ongoing subject of sustainability, which is of critical importance to the footwear industry and a subject that matters to consumers". Despite many initiatives already in place, we still are "in the very early stages of understanding what sustainability means in a footwear supply chain and there is much to be done in this area", she sustains.