By Sunny Liu
Melbourne footwear retailer Peter Parkinson has been awarded a Queen’s Birthday honours Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for his lifelong contribution to the retail footwear industry.
Having owned McCloud Shoes on Queen St since 1991 and been the president of the National Footwear Retailers’ Association (NFRA) since 1995, Mr Parkinson lives and breathes shoes.
Mr Parkinson said the award did not just represent his personal contribution but reflected the collective efforts of Australia’s independent retailers.
“Receiving the honour just for myself is a bit like saying in football that the person who kicked all the goals is the person that won the match,” he said.
The NFRA brings together a large group of individual footwear retailers and provides training and business support to members.
At its peak the NFRA had more than 300 members but, due to the shrinking independent-retail industry, it has been reduced to 150.
Nonetheless, the NFRA continues to play a crucial role in supporting independent footwear retailers and preserving the character of their businesses.
Mr Parkinson’s father Allan bought McCloud Shoes in 1949, when the now high-quality gentlemen’s shoe store was only a modest shop on Queen St.
Mr Parkinson started working at McCloud when he was 17 and took over in 1991.
His sons Paul and Bradley joined the family business in 1989 and have been working on the retail and manufacturing sides.
After almost six decades in the business, Mr Parkinson has witnessed numerous ups and downs of the footwear retail industry.
With department stores and international importers flocking in and the ever-changing fast fashion penetrating the market, Mr Parkinson said unfortunately quality and individuality was diminishing.
“The more big stores, the less personality. Sadly independent retailers are shrinking. People are more affected by styling and the trend changes much more quickly than before,” he said.
“Fewer people choose to invest in a pair of high-quality shoes that they can wear for many years to come.”
He attributed the continuous success of his business to upholding the “old-fashioned” retail principles.
“There are certain things in business that will always be old-fashioned, such as service, quality of product and accessibility. It’s a matter of how you apply those principles to modern day consumerism.” He said.
“These are the things that small independent retailers do better than big retailers.”
Now at 75 years old, Mr Parkinson said he would like to see some new blood at the helm of the NFRA.
“I think it’s more important for younger people to contribute more to the independent-retail industry. They can bring in a fresher and more active business approach,” he said.
Mr Parkinson said he would continue to be more or less involved in the NFRA and his own business.
“Once you are a retailer, you are always a retailer. That’s a ‘terrier’ sort of sense.”
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