With the advent of more and more rigorous legislation surround safety and the use of personal protection equipment in the workplace there has been a surge in the number of manufacturers of safety footwear and safety boots. Last year alone sales rose by a staggering 240% up on the previous year by an equally staggerig 78%, figures which will no doubt prick up the ears of sales representatives up and down the country. Manufacturers from all over Europe are now hot on the safety footwear bandwagon with Italy leading from the front with it’s stylish Cofra brand. Traditional manufacturers from the USA and Nordic regions are standaing firm with their traditional hiking style shoes, the predominant forces being Caterpillar, Bobcat, Karrimor and Tuskers. It’s a hot market to be in and import/export groups from the far east are continually battling out the prices with extremely cheap (and some would say rather dubious quality) copy style shoes. In 2006 there was widespread panic in the industry after China started dumping off surplus stock shoes to Western Europe. Many of the boots were sold at a loss to the companies in a bid to free up cash for the next production run. Europe battled back in in 2007 they are back at the forefront with tight import legislation across Europe making it extremely difficult for the Far East to trade. High import taxes make the product more expensive than the ‘locally’ manufactured shoes and boots. Chinese importers already had to deal with spiralling fuel costs which meant shipping fees where on the increase and in fact haven’t stopped since. The UK has strong ties with traditional shoe and boot making and while the industry has had its ups and downs over the years not helped much by again foreign imports, there is a still a strong market for traditional, hand made leather shoes. UK sectors have been aware of this for some time and brands such as Dr Martens, Fortec, Sterling and DeWalt all now have a product range which reflects the current trend in safety footwear. The ladies market was the big surprise for everyone in the industry. None of the big manufacturers had predicted the vast increase in demand for female safety footwear and as a results there is now a large scale battle for this sector (particularly in the narrow width shoe, size range three to five). DeWalt hit out first with a remodel of it’s classic Apprentic boot, neatly presented in a beige nubuck outer with steel midsole and waterproof upper. So it looks like it’s all to play for at the moment and it’s looking that the consumer can be looking forward to a year of good bargains with competition beig very high. Will we see some casualties in the run up to christmas? Who know’s but one things definitely for sure is that while demand remains high we’ll all be keeping our feet firmly on the ground, and hopefully wearing boots that are built to last at a price that’s affordable.