Shoe retailer marks 155th anniversary with move to real Living Wage

Sixth-generation shoe retailer, Begg Shoes is marking 155 years in business with a move to paying the real Living Wage for its employees. 

Significantly higher than the government’s ‘National Living Wage’ for over 23s (the minimum wage), the company has been accredited by the Living Wage Foundation to provide the only UK wage rate that reflects the cost of living.   

Headquartered in Inverness with nine stores stretching from Perth to Lerwick, Begg Shoes is one of the oldest surviving independent shoe retailers in the UK, and is led by Managing Director, Donald Begg. 

Donald says: “Our move to the real Living Wage is a fitting way for us to mark our 155 years in business. We are proud to become one of the few bricks and mortar retailers to offer this higher rate of pay. The specialist footwear knowledge of our in-store professionals is a big part of our success and longevity. We have long felt that our teams are the best in the business. It’s indictive of how we have continuously adapted and invested in our staff over the last two centuries.” 

Leading independent UK shoe retailer 

Originally established in 1866 by Alexander Begg, the company started life as a modest one-man shoemaker from New Pitsligo. But despite humble beginnings, the company has grown to become one of the leading independent shoe retailers in the UK, with a history of recognising the value of its people. In 2013, as well as facilitating considerable expansion, the purchase of five DE Shoes stores also enabled the retention of 40 jobs. More recently, the business played a key role in lobbying for government grants during the pandemic to ensure all of its stores were retained while also helping to safeguard jobs. 

Inverurie Store Manager, Hayley Dawson says: “I’m delighted that Begg Shoes have become Living Wage Accredited.  We have an excellent team of loyal, dedicated and knowledgeable people and I’m proud to work for a family run business that values everyone’s efforts and rewards them for it.” 

Leading the way for retail employers 

Lynn Anderson, Living Wage Scotland Manager  says:“We’re delighted that Begg Shoes have become an accredited Living Wage employer. The Living Wage movement has grown significantly, but too many workers employed in the retail sector remain in the grip of low pay, and are struggling to cover their everyday needs. There are more than 2400 accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland, yet less than 5% of these employers operate in retail. The Living Wage commitment of Begg Shoes is an important demonstration of leadership in tackling low pay in the retail sector.” 

Donald adds: “Our move to the real Living Wage will help ensure our stores continue to operate with a high level of service, and support our growth for many years to come. We think our predecessors would be pleased with our vision and investment in people who, since the very start of the business, have helped make our progress possible.” 

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