About Us

History

GRS Footwear (George Rye & Sons Ltd) is fairly unique in that the Company can trace its history back to 1880, when the original ‘George Smart Rye’ founded the Company. Having arrived from Northampton in 1879 which was then the traditional heart of the UK shoe manufacturing industry, George opened an upper manufacturing operation in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne at 45 Groat Market – in conjunction with existing shoe maker ‘George Clarke’ the business was quickly a success supplying the hundreds of shoe makers and repairers that were in the region at that time. 

By all accounts, George was quite a character and quickly became one of the best known business personalities in the City, whether this is down to his business acumen, or his love of meeting travelling salesmen and business colleagues in the bar next door is open to debate.

In 1900, George Edward Rye joined the business with his father and expanded the product range and customer base. Although called into the Army during the 1914-1918 Great War, he managed to survive and get back into the business in 1918. At this point the emergence of large scale shoe production factories in Leicester & Kettering were hitting smaller production units like those at the Company, so George Edward Rye decided that the future lay in the wholesaling of leather & grindery materials. This proved to be the right decision and led to rapid growth of the business. To cope, the Company purchased two buildings next door to the original, giving the Company the address of 41-43 Groat Market  - opening in 1928 and pictured left.  Passing away in 1962, he had been a founder member of the ‘Northern Counties Leather & Grindery Merchants Association’ and held most of its honorary offices.

George Edward Rye was succeeded by his son Edward Rye who joined the business in 1924 and worked at the Company up until a few years before his passing away in 1992. Edward managed to steer the Company through the disastrous year of 1963 when over 1/3 of the Companies customers were forced to close. A combination of one of the harshest winters on record, plus the huge popularity of the fashionable and almost un-repairable ‘crepe’ sole, closed hundreds of shoe repairers across the UK.  

The Company passed through the family & still remains in the ownership of the Rye family, making its’ way through 5 generations and surviving two world wars, where staff and family members were called into serving their Country, through the years of rationing, material shortages and several economic depressions.

In 1964, the current Chairman Michael Rye joined the business and soon began wholesaling footwear as well as materials - originally sourced from UK, then European factories, and the biggest expansion period in the history of the Company began. This side of the business grew quickly and in 1983, the Company moved to a much bigger industrial unit in the city away from the 5 floor warehouse in the Groat Market which was becoming too difficult to work in. The original premises were then converted into a retail business. In 1992, Martin Rye, the 5th generation of the family joined the business.

The business remained in the ‘Shieldfield’ location on the city outskirts until 2008, when the continued development of the business led to another move into a purpose built distribution centre in Cramlington, Northumberland, pictured below.

 

Current Position

True to their original roots, GRS continue to supply the shoe trade with some of the same shoecare products that were supplied in 1880, but the real strength of the Company now comes from the distribution of footwear. The Company supplies the following brands:

Lunar – Born in 1990, Lunar Shoes set out with the aim of creating something new, colourful and elegant at prices that were within the reach of most British Women. The design team began by selecting materials and trims that had previously only been used in other areas of fashion and applied them to footwear.  The result was an exciting range of classic footwear with a designer twist that became an instant hit in department stores & footwear boutiques across the UK.

Since those early days the Lunar brand has grown and developed to encompass different footwear categories including boots, comfort lines and even funky wellingtons, meaning that each season the team now has the task of creating over 300 new designs  - some in up to seven colours!

 Nearly 25 years on the brand has gone from strength to strength and can be found in stores across Europe and now even as far away as Australia. The buying, design and QC teams now work in tandem but are still true to the original aims of creating unique seasonal designs, incorporating the best trims and embellishments in the latest fashion colours – all created using the best available materials at an affordable price. As you can imagine, that is not an easy job and that is why we say: ‘Love Shoes, Love Lunar.’ 

  Grisport - GRS distribute this comprehensive range of walking boots, comfort shoes and safety boots from one of Italy’s biggest producers of footwear. Producing almost 20,000 pairs of shoes per day, with a workforce of over 2,000 at the foot of the Dolomite Mountains, Grisport have one of the most advanced production facilities in the world. Powered by over 15,000m2 of solar panels and producing some of the most technical footwear made, GRS are one of the brands biggest distributors in the world.

 Goodyear – Given that tyres and shoes share a common need for grip, traction, performance & durability, it’s no surprise that Goodyear has been making a mark in the footwear business since 1901. The rugged durable qualities at the centre of the Goodyear ethos have been married seamlessly with both timeless and directional style in the latest footwear collections by GRS footwear. GRS also design, manufacture and distribute all Goodyear branded repair products to the UK shoe repair & manufacturing trade.

 

Latest Developments

Warehouse Expansion - This April, GRS started the expansion of Lunar House adding over 1/3 of new warehousing space and creating new loading & unloading bays. This increased capacity will allow even greater stock holding for all of our brands.

 

Chinese Office – The GRS sourcing and QC office continues to expand with a larger showroom planned for 2015 and extra QC inspectors in the field. The Chinese staff, all employed by GRS play an integral role in helping the Company control its supply chain and source new and exciting new products in all fields.

Stock Integrated Website – In the early part of 2015, the new GRS website will launch and will allow customers to place their orders and check their account balances online. The website will be fully linked to live stock levels, allowing customers to check what goods are available. With tens of thousands of product lines and special offers, this service will revolutionise how some customers will place their orders.

 Store Concessions – GRS continue to open ‘Lunar’ branded concessions in selected department stores in the UK. These concessions give a shop window for the brand and increase exposure in key city locations in the UK. Run centrally from Head Office, under the wing of our concession manager, GRS are looking to expand from the current 17 locations in 2015.

Rider - GRS have been appointed the distributor of 'Rider' flip-flops and sandals by Grendene of Brasil, one of the world's largest producers of footwear - with a production of 250 million pairs per year. GRS will be offering retailers the biggest Rider range ever available in the UK & single pair - repeat order back up in season.


At the 2016 Footwear Awards, GRS were delighted to Win both the 'Outdoor Brand of the Year' with Grisport and the 'Fashion Brand of the Year' 2016 for Lunar.