It was once a staple of any family utility room, ready to be deployed on Sunday evenings before the weekly return to school or the office.
But Kiwi shoe polish, once a household name, was soon a thing of the past after the manufacturer decided to stop selling the product in the UK.
The firm said a decline in the habit of polishing shoes – as a result of the growing number of people working from home and the rise of the ubiquitous trainers – has prompted it to focus on other markets.
A Kiwi spokeswoman said it had seen a drop in the number of Britons polishing their shoes, which “coincides with an increase in casual shoes that do not require formal polishing”.
The firm said it would still sell the product in countries where formal shoe care “remains relevant”.
Kiwi polish is bought in at least 120 countries around the world and accounts for more than half of the polish sold worldwide, with office workers and members of the armed forces – where mirrors on shoes and leather belts Luster is to be expected – supplying most of its customer base.
David James, whose London family shoe repair and cleaning firm was founded over 100 years ago, said the Kiwis’ decision was “a sign of the times”.
The 62-year-old said: “It’s what you used to do on a Sunday night before school or work for the week, but those days are fading fast. Some people come in and never polish them off, they Don’t even know how to do it.”
Mr James, who has shoe-shine chairs in London’s Canary Wharf, said: “Partly it’s because people wear suits and smart shoes less often. Covid accelerated this with more working from home, but there was a trend before that time.
“Plus, trainers are being worn more and more — even to work. While shoes are dying, trainers are alive. Now we repair sneakers — repair them and paint them.” We do.”
Romi Topi, founder of Topshine in London’s Burlington Arcade, said: “Covid-19 has certainly changed the culture of people at this time. We’ve gone into a trend of being too casual. “People work from home and on those few days when they are working in the office, it looks like they are coming out of the gym. The city is now more like a university campus.
However, at least one producer is eyeing any gap in the market that could be made by Kiwi’s departure.
Cherry Blossom, a British firm that launched like Kiwi in 1906, sees its exit from the UK as an opportunity.
Natasha Seal-Jones, its head of marketing, said: “There’s always a place for sparkle in your step. Be it a job interview, a wedding or a party, having shiny, clean shoes instills confidence and that need never ends. We want to give that confidence.
The kiwi was created by an Australian, William Ramsay, who named it because his wife, Annie, was a New Zealander.
Mr. Ramsay’s polishes became increasingly popular during World War I, in demand by soldiers in the British and American armies.
It was bought by the Sara Lee Corporation in 1984, before being sold in 2011 to SC Johnson, which now wants to focus on its range of other cleaning products.
SC Johnson said in a statement: “After a thorough assessment, SC Johnson (SCJ) has decided to exit the Shoe Care business in the UK in order to redirect our investments and resources to the company’s strategic businesses and initiatives Is.
“With this decision, Kiwi will no longer be distributed by SCJ in this market.”
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