Kiwi shoe polish will disappear because Britain no longer cares about shiny shoes

Cherry Blossom sees Kiwi’s departure from the UK as an opportunity for expansion – David Rose/David Rose

It used to be a staple of any home utility room, ready to be used on a Sunday night before the weekly return to school or office.

But Kiwi shoe polish, once a household name, will soon be a thing of the past after the manufacturer decided to stop selling the product in the UK.

The company said the decline in the shoe polishing habit – as a result of the growing number of people working from home and the emergence of ubiquitous trainers – has prompted it to focus on other markets.

A spokesman for the Kiwi said there had been a decrease in the number of Britons polishing their shoes, coinciding with “an increase in the number of casual shoes that do not require formal polishing”.

The company added that it will continue to sell products in countries where formal shoe care “remains relevant”.

Kiwi polish is purchased 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 a mirror shine is expected on shoes and leather belts – supply much to its customer base.

David James, whose London-based family shoe repair and shine business was founded 100 years ago, said Kiwi’s decision was “a sign of the times”.

The 62-year-old said: “This is what you did on a Sunday night before school or work for a week, but those days fade away quickly. Some people come in and have never polished them, they don’t even know how to do it.”

Mr James, who has shoe shine chairs at London’s Canary Wharf, added: “Part of this is because people are much less likely to wear suits and smart shoes. Covid has accelerated this by increasing the amount of work from home, but there was a trend before that.

“In addition, sneakers are being worn more and more – even to work. While shoes die, sneakers live. Now we restore the sneakers – we repair them and paint them.”

Romi Topi, founder of TopShine at London’s Burlington Arcade, said: “Covid-19 has definitely changed the culture of what people wear right now. We’ve gotten into this trend of being too casual. “People work from home and the few days they work in the office they look like they just stepped out of the gym. The city is now more like a university campus.

However, at least one manufacturer is keeping an eye on any gap in the market that Kiwi’s departure may leave.



Cherry Blossom, a British company that, like Kiwi, started in 1906, sees leaving the UK as an opportunity.

Natasha Seal-Jones, head of marketing, said: “There’s always room in your stride to shine. Whether it’s a job interview, wedding or party, shiny, clean shoes add confidence and that need never goes away. We want to give that certainty.”

The kiwi was created by William Ramsay, an Australian who named it because his wife Annie was New Zealander.

Mr. Ramsay’s varnish became increasingly popular with British and American soldiers during the First World War.

It was bought by Sara Lee Corporation in 1984 before being sold in 2011 to SC Johnson who now want to focus on their range of other cleaning products.

SC Johnson said in a statement: “Following a thorough review, SC Johnson (SCJ) has decided to leave the UK Footwear Care business to redirect our investment and resources to the company’s strategic business areas and initiatives.

“With this decision, Kiwi will no longer be distributed by SCJ in this market.”

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