Digger: Hello Dok. How are you?
Dok: Good thank you.
Digger: Good for you. Did you have a good weekend?
Dok: Well, I was working!
Digger: On the plus side, sometimes you can get a lot more
done at the weekend.
Dok: You’re right, the phone doesn’t ring…
Digger: The vegetarian footwear on your site. How popular is
Dok: We sell about 10% vegetarian.
Digger: I wonder how that compares to the percentage of
vegetarians there are in the country?
Dok: I think it’s about 5%. I’m a vegetarian myself
but I have no concerns about animal by-products.
Digger: I was a ‘pescatarian’ for some time but on the
food shows on TV they talk about someone being a vegetarian
but eating fish,
Dok: I do too. I think it’s because you have to draw a
line somewhere and I think the official definition of a
pescatarian can mean that some people will eat shellfish and
some won’t eat fish. For me, I decided I didn’t want to
eat animals. And then you think you’re treading on bugs on
the way to work, antibiotics are killing bacteria.
Digger: Ingesting insects in the summer?
Dok: Yes, and do I squash a bug in my room? So I think
you have to draw a line somewhere and I’ve only been a
vegetarian for about a year.
Digger: Is it the moral thing or the texture or taste?
Dok: No, I love the taste. I miss meat quite a lot –
it’s the moral side of things.
Digger: I started to be a vegetarian about 20 years ago and
gave up about five years ago, although I eat very little
meat still apart from bacon. There are so many vegetarian
products now where they are shaped to look like meat which I
think is a bit odd.
Dok: It does taste good and I’m a big fan of the Quorn
stuff. and there’s a new protein out from mushrooms as
Digger: I think I’ve had some of that.
Dok: I haven’t been able to find that yet but it’s
supposed to be exceedingly good for you with more protein in
it than meat and a full spectrum of proteins.
Digger: if you’re eating oily fish as well you must be one
of the healthiest people in the world.
Dok: I don’t eat that much oily fish because my partner
is also vegetarian and she’ll only east salmon and tuna.
Occasionally I’ll go and get myself some mackerel or
kippers, but you cook ‘em and then the house smells.
Digger: It doesn’t bother me. I open the door and go for
it. And my girlfriend disappears for an hour or two to avoid
the smell and I’m in bliss with my kippers! So, on with
the questions. Can you tell us about the history of
Dok: I got into it originally because I built a website
for a friend of mine back in the mid-90s when The Internet
was JUST starting to take off. Before it was a household
name or anything.
Digger: A pioneer!
Boot Animal Print
Boot Animal Print
Dok: And I was working in a company and I got into The
Internet through that. A friend of mine was selling clothing
– the Goth scene, and I built him a website and he started
making a good number of sales on it. It was probably one
of the first online retailers in that market. The only thing he didn’t
sell was footwear and I thought “I want to catch this
bandwagon.” So I found a few suppliers and went online
selling footwear. I chose boots at the time because that
wasn’t what he was doing.
Digger: Were people quite wary of The Internet at that time?
Dok: No, they were totally unwary of it in the early days.
They didn’t think twice about putting their card number
into a totally unsecure normal web browser form. And having
it sent over. People were very trusting, just as they used
to be to a waiter in a restaurant where he used to wander
off around the corner with a little piece of paper. Everyone
was completely trusting then. (Digger laughs) It was only
when The Internet became readily available to everyone and
the hacking started that then the media started all their
alarm stories. I think the chances of fraud online are still
a lot smaller than they are with other methods.
Digger: I’m sure you’re right. You can’t rely on the
postal security and you can’t rely on the telephone for
privacy. Bu then we haven’t got a problem with booking a
hotel on the phone and giving our credit card and the
security number on the back. Mad.
Dok: Yes, especially when you got to a hotel because they
want your home address too. They’ve got everything they
Digger: And they know when you’re going to be away. So you
were a pioneer?
Dok: February ’97 was when the site went live so
we’ve been selling for 13 years online.
Digger: I was in IT at that time and went to an IBM seminar
and there were 100 or so delegates there at the South Bank,
IT managers from all over the country. They asked us if
anybody had heard of or used eBay and I was the only one to
put my hand up – I had been buying and selling movie
memorabilia from and to the US. I was a pioneer too!
Dok: Yes. I started on The Internet in ’93 actually
selling RAM on Usenet and all you did was advertise on
UK4SALE that you had RAM and people would send you cheques
in the post and you sent them RAM. That’s how it worked! There
was no security or protection or warranties. We used to
drive over to the company with wads of cash in our pockets
and they’d hand over a case full of thin memory cards
which, back then, were worth their weight in gold.
Dok: We’d take them back home and sell them online and
that was where it began as a bit of a sideline .
Digger: You stock a diverse range of shoes and boots. What
are the strongest sellers?
Dok: Right now we’re finding that we’re selling a lot
of winkle pickers, both the pixie style ones and the more
sixties and seventies mod style ones. The platforms are out
at the moment – they’re not really working. The thigh
high boots don’t really work at the moment either.
Digger: It’s just a cyclical thing, isn’t it?
Dok: It is, yes, they come and go so it’d difficult to
say what’s going to work one year and what isn’t. The
other stuff that’s working is when all this Steampunk came
Digger: What about Doc Martens?
Dok: We used to sell those but the problem we found is
that the oriental manufacturing cottoned onto that and
everything they decided to do ended up being made all over
the place, really cheaply, made out of plastic. And what we
have found is that people in this country are no longer as
discerning as they used to be about the quality of what they
Digger: It’s more throwaway?
Dok: So whenever someone’s making something like that
we have to stop manufacturing it because making them out of
real leather we just can’t come near them on price.
Digger: Doc Martens used to have a Covent Garden flagship
store and a manufacturing base up here in Northamptonshire,
but all the manufacturing went abroad.
Dok: Yes, it all moved to China.
Digger: What does the Internet mean to your business?
Dok: It’s the great bulk of it, 90%. We used to do a
bit of mail order but that’s really died.
Digger: Mail orders a thing of the past now. I supposed the
big catalogue firms in Liverpool are all having to rethink
their business models as well. Littlewoods, Grattan and so
Dok: Our customers tend to be younger generation anyway
and they tend to be very clued-up communication-wise. They
are very much from the ‘want it now, get it now’ era. We
do send catalogues out with our boots but even if they use
the catalogue for browsing they still place the order
Digger: There’s no element of people wanting to come and
look at and feel the items?
Dok: Some do, but we’ve got a reasonable return policy.
People understand when they’re ordering shoes that
there’s no guarantee that they’re going to fit.
Digger: Why do you think Retro is as popular as ever?
Dok: I think it’s because people want something
that’s going to set them apart. It’s a modern society
and everyone’s got a car, a mobile phone and so on and I
think some people like to look a bit different to call
attention to themselves.
Digger: There’s quite a mix and match culture – it’s
not always that someone is trying to replicate an exact
look. They wear a bit of this and a bit of that?
Dok: Maybe a little bit less obvious pigeon-holing
than in the past. Even before the credit crunch came along
there was a revival in Rockabilly and Psychabilly.
Digger: I suppose your challenge is to be ready when a new
trend, or a revival of an old trend, comes out and that
you’re ready to take advantage of the cycle?
Dok: I’d like to be that organised but we spend most of
our time just trying to deal with our manufacturers and so
Digger: Are they mostly abroad?
Dok: No, they’re mostly UK-based.
Digger: Oh, you surprise me. I’m in Northampton here which
used to be the shoe and boot capital of the world. We just
have a couple of small shoe companies left here now.
Churches have still got a bit of a base here but all the
other factories have been turned into posh flats. The whole
of the town centre used to be given over to the industry.
Dok: We work with quite small suppliers these days and
the market is quite small so we do find that stuff arrives
late. We have two suppliers overseas and the great thing
about them is if it’s in stock then they’re quick to
deliver but as soon as they run out of stock then they tell
us they’re out of stock for six months.
Digger: That’s useful!
Dok: Again, because they’re small, because they have to
order by the container-load from China or Taiwan, the time
it takes to get a container loaded and sent there’s a big
lead time. So we actually prefer the manufacturers who are
based in the UK and Europe but they may have their problems
and they require a lot of hand-holding. They’re still
making leather shoes and get them to us quite quickly.
Do you see the suppliers much?
A couple of these suppliers we see face-to-face every couple
of weeks or so.
Digger: You have customers from all over the world. What are
the most satisfying aspects of dealing with these customers
and of running Pennangalan generally?
Dok: When you see a lovely pair of boots being sent to
someone and they write back and say how delighted they are
with them, that’s quite rewarding.
Digger: Do your shoes and boots ever make it to TV and film?
Dok: Occasionally we get asked to do music videos and we
have supplied boots just last week for Naomi Campbell for a
photo shoot. But no, on the whole, we don’t do that much.
Digger: Where do you see Pennangalan heading in the next few
years in terms of product range and business development?
Dok: Well, we’re looking towards the smart side of the
shoe business a bit, so people who want to look smart rather
than sloppy. And we’re also emphasising a bit more on the
high street because they have got a bit more imaginative. So
we’re looking for places that would take our styles on.
Digger: How would that work?
Dok: I think we’ll try and find a couple of up market
shoe stores which will be interested and we’ll say that
we’ll mass-produce for them.
Digger: When I went on a Med cruise a couple of years ago
with my girlfriend we were dropped off at Cannes and Monte
Carlo and so on. The French, the Italians and others were
immaculately dressed. The British off of our boat were
embarrassingly scruffy. You could tell who the Brits were
and who the locals were – smart shoes, snappy suits and
Dok: Yes, the Mediterranean is very much like that.
Digger: And then the Brits! Trainers, shorts, Manchester
United T-Shirts. I’m not the smartest person in the world
but I looked smart compared to them.
Dok: You feel self-conscious then, don’t you?
Digger: Yes, so if you can help us smarten our act up and
make us proud again of our footwear and appearance?
Dok: I think that comes to certain people anyway but
certainly I’m personally finding the more elegant shoes to
be more satisfying – I still wear the big boots but I
prefer the more elegant ones.
Digger: Have you ever done Beatle boots?
Dok: We do have a beat boot style, yes, with a Cuban
heel. This is made in London.
Digger: Well, Dok, thanks for sharing the history of
your company with us. Best of luck with your new ranges and
the high street presence.
Thank you David.
- We ship worldwide. Goth Boots - Steampunk Boots - Fetish
Boots - Club Boots - Buckle Boots - Thigh Boots - Platform
Boots - Kinky Boots
Commando Boots, Platform
Boots, Stiletto Heels, Winklepickers, Pixie/Pointy Boots,
Bike boots, Steampunk, Ankle Boots & Shoes, Knee High
Boots, Thigh High Boots, Vegetarian Boots, Rubber/Latex
Telephone: +44 (0) 1753-678076
Pennangalan, 15 Gloucester
Avenue, SLOUGH, SL1 3AW, UNITED KINGDOM