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Historic French shoe brand Paraboot struggles to meet Instagram demand

The €350-a-pair shoes, said to be popular with priests, winemakers and lawyers - and worn by Paris' police force, have seen a 35% rise in sales this year

French shoe brand Paraboot is struggling to meet soaring demand due to problems recruiting staff Pic: Paraboot

French shoe brand Paraboot is struggling to meet soaring demand after becoming popular on the social media site Instagram, due to problems recruiting staff.

The shoes are made at a factory in Saint-Jean-de-Moirans, Isère. The site, which usually employs 95 people, is struggling to recruit staff despite offering pay rises for 2022.

The company generates 6-8% net profit per year, and pays its staff an average of €2,000-€2,200 gross per month, plus bonuses, profit sharing and a 13th month.

Eric Forestier, director-general of Paraboot, said: “It’s important to remain competitive.” 

Yet, 14 factory positions are still vacant at the site, which first opened in 2017 as a replacement for two factories in Izeaux and Tullins (Isère). Should these vacancies be filled, the factory would be able to open its second production line, which has been closed for nearly two years.

Soaring demand

The company has, as a result of the lack of workers, been struggling to meet increased demand as its popularity grows among young people on Instagram.

There are currently just 80,000 pairs in stock at the factory site, compared to the usual 110,000.

Sales have risen 35% this year, and after a drop in sales in 2020, the business is on track to make €20million for 2021, on a par with its takings for 2019.

Originally designed in 1945, the shoes have become known for their strong leather and thick rubber soles, which are worn by a diverse range of people from “priests and winemakers to lawyers”, according to one director.

The shoes first attracted the attention of younger people in the late 1980s, when they were worn by “students from the Dauphine [Paris university] to the Sorbonne”, when fashion was taking a “gentleman farmer” turn, director of marketing Pierre Colin told Le Monde.

Now, the company’s social media marketing on Facebook and Instagram has seen the shoes gain a new generation of fans, despite their high cost of at least €350 per pair, depending on the model and material used.

It has 122,000 followers on Instagram and its posts frequently gather hundreds or even thousands of likes.

The shoes have also seen rising success abroad, including in Japan and Korea. Today, exports make up 50% of sales compared to 20% in 2010.

Paraboot has 29 boutiques across France and Belgium, and pairs can also be reserved online.

Mr Forestier has said that the company could double in size if the second production line is eventually reopened, and that new boutiques could even be opened in Asia in 2022 if demand continues to grow.

It has since relaunched its famous mountain climber shoe brand Galibier, and also has plans to reopen factories in Spain to continue to produce its boat shoes, moccasins and trainers.

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