Roy Sparshott has been swearing by C J Clark’s shoes as far back as he can remember.
Such is the success of the 190-year-old private company, based in Street, Somerset, it now sells nearly 150 million pairs of its shoes every year.
Because he couldn’t produce a receipt he was offered only £10 in compensation
But for Roy the shine has been rapidly coming off the brand over the past few years, especially as his last purchase from its Fareham shop literally came apart after walking a short distance.
Gosport reader Roy says he was attracted to the style of the shoes when he tried them on in the shop and found them extremely comfortable.
He admits to a bit of a habit of buying shoes and storing them until he wants to wear them.
The 70-year-old retired engineer decided to get in touch with Streetwise after digging out of his wardrobe a brand new pair of Clarks Active Air shoes which he believed he’d stored for about a year.
He put them on but was dismayed to find that after walking approximately 300 metres the soles of the £79 pair of shoes had parted from the uppers.
He says he took them back to the shop, where it was agreed they were in pristine condition apart from the issue with the sole. But because he couldn’t produce a receipt he was offered only £10 in compensation.
He says: ‘It’s the third pair of shoes I’ve had trouble with from Clarks. I don’t know how fair wear and tear comes into it, but the last couple of pairs of shoes I may have had for about a year or so and both of them I had the same trouble with the soles coming away from the top.’
‘If you’re paying £80 for a pair of shoes, you expect them to last. I’ve got some walking boots that are 30 years old and they’re as good as anything.’
We were surprised to hear of Roy’s experience, so we started to make some enquiries of our own. Such is Clarks’ reputation for quality, durable products that complaints to Streetwise about the firm’s footwear are as rare as hen’s teeth.
We had come across the occasional complaint that stored Clarks shoes appeared to have a much shorter lifespan unless they were worn soon after purchase, but the evidence was inconclusive.
After we got on to Clarks and put Roy’s point across, head office got in touch with him. The firm was clearly anxious to get to the bottom of his complaint and asked him to provide the manufacturing reference numbers stamped inside the shoes.
This revealed the shoes had been made in 2004, and clearly had been in storage since then.
But we also discovered Roy’s opinion that the quality of Clarks shoes had deteriorated was widely shared on the internet. One site, Complaints Board, had numerous similar complaints about disintegrating shoes, particularly where the soles just fell apart.
Clarks responded to our probing about stored shoes completely transparently.
They told us they were aware that some materials they had previously used in the manufacturing process could result in hydrolysis, a condition that stops the material from flexing and stretching.
They had phased out the use of the offending material several years ago.
A spokesperson says: ‘Clarks’ shoes and the materials used are subjected to a large number of physical tests designed to ensure comfort, safety and durability. Each product undergoes up to 50 tests before the point of sale. Shoes are also randomly checked and tested when they arrive at distribution centres to ensure they all meet the Clarks quality standard.’
‘We are sorry to hear of Mr Sparshott’s complaint.
‘However, after further investigation it is apparent these shoes were manufactured in August 2004 and had been stored by the customer for approximately 10 years. Due to the date of manufacture, this product would have been susceptible to hydrolysis and we have offered the customer a goodwill gesture for his inconvenience.
‘We discussed the situation with Roy and he agreed it probably wasn’t smart to store shoes for too long after buying them.
‘Legally he was required to produce a receipt and only entitled to a refund or replacements for up to six years from the date of purchase.’
However following our intervention, Clarks has decided as a gesture of goodwill to double its original compensation offer to £20.
Roy was disappointed not to receive a total refund but says he will be taking up Clarks’ goodwill offer now he understands his statutory rights had expired.
He says: ‘Thank you for everything. I hope this is a warning to other people.’