Delight for Suffolk business as sheepskin slippers become must-have lockdown accessory
PUBLISHED: 09:06 10 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:59 10 June 2020
Lockdown has provided a welcome boost for a sheepskin clothing maker – as its slipper sales soar.
Sixth generation family business Nursey Sheepskin of Bungay says most of its sales in its handmade clothes are in the winter months.
But since prime minister Boris Johnson urged the country to work from home in March, sales of its hand-made British slippers have more than doubled.
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Nursey said slippers – which provided 44% of its sales during the same period last year – have rocketed to a whopping 90%.
James Nursey is the sixth generation to run the business alongside his fiancee Marcella, with both now co-owners. They decided to revive the fortunes of the ancient firm, which was launched in Bungay in 1846 and makes a variety of clothing accessories including sheepskin hats.
The unexpected surge in lockdown slippers sales is a welcome boost for the business, which closed its factory shop in 2014 under former managing director Tim Nursey – who is James’ dad.
“People might fancy walking around the office in a nice pair of cosy slippers but it is a lot more preferable at home,” said James, 42.
“Since covid-19 a lot of workers are finding it safer and beneficial to work from home.
“Modern technology makes it possible and it looks like being a trend which is set to continue even when the lockdown ends and virus threat hopefully recedes.
“Working from home has definitely been good for business in terms of our slipper sales.”
The slippers are designed to be comfortable and durable, he said.
“A pair can really last many years – even if you wear them every day.
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“They are surprisingly good even in warmer months because sheepskin is a natural insulator – warm in winter and cool in summer.
“Sheepskin wicks moisture away, allowing air to circulate and prevents sweaty feet in the warmer months.
“I always wear mine at home and I think a lot of our customers must be doing likewise.”
James’ fiancee Marcella runs the company’s website which makes products to order.
They sell eight styles of slippers in a variety of colours, sizes and prices.
The products are still made on the firm’s premises in Upper Olland Street, Bungay.
The company also sells gilets, headbands, bags, gloves and mittens but it is the slippers which are most popular at the moment.
In its heyday, Nursey employed a workforce of up to 80, but today just four self-employed – and highly skilled - staff fulfil orders.
James says he is keen to continue the business as long as the team wants to make the products.
“A lot of the tanneries closed in the shutdown so there are always challenges but the appetite for quality British products remains,” he said.
“Hopefully the financial impact of the virus won’t be as bad as many fear and the economy can rally sharply later this year.
“It is good to be selling products now but a busy Christmas is always vital to our business.”
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