Everything Counts

“Where heaven waits
Those golden gates
And back again
You take me to
And lead me through

This is the morning of our love
It’s just the dawning of our love”

Martin Gore

Many lifetimes ago I travelled the country selling Skechers. Skechers then certainly wasn’t the global brand that it is now, this was the early 90’s and Shechers had begun life as a magpie brand alighting on every trend and trying to ‘interpret’ it better. Their first choice was to ‘emulate’ the success of Caterpillar boots, which then were iconic and bestsellers. Skechers brought out a range of similar boots, but instead of Cat’s honey coloured nubuck, they offered their boots in a myriad of loud colours, sky blue, purple, yellow, green, and all the shades in between. They also offered them with a steel tie cap, but cut out the leather at the toe, exposing the silver toe cap beneath. They called these ones, ‘Chrome Domes’.

Shops across the UK and Ireland went nuts for them. There were huge exhibitions at trade fairs across Europe , with dance routines, stickers, celeb endorsements, and free beer.

The industry was abuzz. This was going to be the greatest brand launch of ALL time. Shops, having scrambled around and paid over the odds the previous year to have any Cat boots in stock, gave Skechers their largest opening orders ever.

Stock began to dribble into stores. Shops received a size 7 in pink, some 8’s in blue, a randon 11 in green, but they were just happy to receive any at all and be part of the upcoming explosion of sales.

Shelley’s in London , was the most influential street fashion footwear outlet in the UK, in no small part due to the fact that they had one of those giant 4 storied shops in Oxford Circus, which the world passed by.

Shelley’s filled their windows with the multi-coloured Skechers.

And then…absolutely no one bought them.

Kids didn’t like them.

Shops quickly started discounting them, then started trying to return them to the distributor.

It was a mess.

Shops lost more money on Skechers in a single season than they’d ever lost on any other brand.

Skechers was referred to as ‘that brand’, in much the same way as Hamlet is referred to as ‘The Scottish Play’ by actors , in case saying it’s actual name would bring bad luck.

And that should have been that for Skechers.

No one should ever have heard it’s name again.

There’s rarely such a thing as a second chance in a street fashion brand.

A couple of years later I was a naïve 25 year old pluffing my trade selling brightly coloured Swedish clogs, canvas Palladium shoes, anything and everything that I could get from English and Dutch wholesalers to sell to Irish footwear stores and earn enough money to keep diesel in my 91-MN Volkswagen Golf, and pay my share of the rent in the flat my Soulmate and I were sharing with our best friend Micky.

Out of the blue I got a call from a chap called Owen from Westport asking to meet me in Dublin with a ‘business opportunity’. We met for coffee and he explained that he’d secured the agency for Ireland for Skechers and was giving me the opportunity to be his sub-agent. In effect he was going to get commission on all Skechers sales in Ireland and he was offering to split it with me, all I had to do was to actually sell the shoes.

I knew enough about Skechers previous launch to say ‘I’ll think about it’ , and had no intention of calling him back. I did ask him how he’d heard of me and he said several shops he knew had recommended me. This did make me smile.

“Me ? A swan ?”

It subsequently turned out that Owen had offered the position to six other guys before me, who’d all turned it down, and the shops that had recommended me, had done so based , not on my selling skills, but on their observation that despite the fact that I was clearly desperate to make a living, I seemed rather cheerful about it.

At the time two of my great friends in the trade were Felim in Topstyle in Dundalk, and Pat from McCabe’s, the one in Leixlip, not the one in Bray. They both said that as it was commission sales position I’d nothing to lose by trying. If they sold I’d get money, if they didn’t , I’d be slightly wiser, but without redundant stock.

I said yes to Owen, and the first two orders for Skechers in Ireland were from Topstyle in Dundalk, and Pat McCabes Shoes in Leixlip.

The range had now pivoted to street sports, and , thanks to the new distributor , Pentland’s agreement with Skechers, they had a license to make some more European styles them selves for Skechers.

After a couple of weeks out on the road I got an order from Marathon Sports in Dublin for £9,600 and rang Owen immediately. He told me I was a great fella althogether and he was glad those other 6 fellas had turned the position down.

The CEO for Skechers UK was a fantastic gentleman called Tony Greenfield , and he was one of the most exceptional people I have ever met. Everywhere we went over the next few years, London, Dublin, Germany, Italy , Spain, he seemed to know everyone we met, retailers, manufacturers, restautant managers, hotel staff. And he wouldn’t just remember their names, he’d ask after their partners, children. He had this knack of making everyone he met seem the most important person ever.

Tony developed a range of Skechers leather soled Chelsea boots, black and brown leather, mens and ladies.

I took them to Simon Hart in Dublin, and staggered down the stairs from their tiny office above the shop on Henry St., with a huge order ! I drove straight back to our flat in Fairview to transcribe all of the sizes and quantities onto actual order sheets, in their office I’d written everything into a tiny Moleskin notebook, that looked cool but was very fiddily.

I added everything up. I added it again, and again.

I rang Owen.

“How’d it go with John and Michael ?” he asked anxiously.

“Four….” I blurted.

“Four styles ? They picked four styles ???”

“Four…. Hundred…”

“Well, not what we were hoping, but it’s  a trial order at least.”



I think Owen proposed marriage at that point.

The next week I made an appointment to see the DV8 boys, Jim and Talat, in Belfast. Their order was almost as big.

We could think about buying a house now.

We did buy a house. We got married. Jake was born.

We set up a business with Dad and my brother Stephen, and later our John.

We moved to Belfast later still and set up another business with Jim and Talat.  

We bought a house there. Robyn and Elliott were born there.

All the twists and turns of a wonderful life, kickstarted by a phone call out of the blue from someone I didn’t know, who was calling me as his seventh choice.

You just never know, do you ?

Say yes, take a chance.

    “I shall be telling this with a sigh

    Somewhere ages and ages hence:

   Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

   I took the one less traveled by,

   And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost



Author: paul

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