Rosemary Gray helps ensure youngster Callum Elms gets the right footwear
Rosemary Gray, 61, who trains staff at the North Shoes stores in Red Lion Square, Stamford, and North Street, Bourne, will take the helm of the Society of Shoe Fitters in March – with her colleagues saluting her as ‘one of the finest shoe fitters in the country’.
Rosemary is completing her second year as vice-president of an organisation pledged to upholding standards of footwear and fitting in the UK.
She is looking forward to her two-year spell as president and will be installed at an SSF council meeting in London in March – after 40 years in the trade.
Rosemary said: “I feel it’s an achievement in the shoe industry – recognition of the work the society does and a real honour for me.”
In addition to working at the stores in Stamford and Bourne, she manages the North Shoes store in Peterborough. She also trains full-time staff at all the shops in the family-owned firm.
On her days off Rosemary tutors and lectures up and down the country for the SSF, having trained literally hundreds of shoe store staff members over the past 27 years with the society.
She champions the need for top quality shoe fitting and says: “The SSF is facing its biggest challenge – shoe fitting as a trade is dying.
“Shop staff are told to put money in tills and get shoes off the shelves - but very few of them know much about foot health. It’s so important – wrong fitting shoes can damage ankles, knees, backs and even cause migraine.
“The SSF has a lot of projects on the go to make people aware of the importance of shoe fitting – and we have lobbied the government to bring in a law requiring shoes sold on the internet to carry a health warning.”
Rosemary began as a shoe store worker in Oxfordshire in 1974 and says: “I decided then I would put my all into learning about fitting shoes. In those days it was done by hand and eye.
“I absolutely love it. I’m 61 now and I don’t think I’ll ever retire! I still get satisfaction when I have guided a customer through their problems and found them the right shoes. The job satisfaction is there every day.
“You can pick up so many conditions through looking at people and their feet closely – we picked up autism with one child that the parents hadn’t even realised.”
Laura West, secretary of the SSF, said: “Rosemary is quite simply one of the finest shoe fitters in the country. The Society are delighted she will become our President in 2017 and appreciate the many hundreds of students she has mentored over the years on behalf of the SSF, and the service she has provided freely to the public.”
And James North, managing director of North Shoes, added: “Rosemary is unique. Her job is a vocation – what she doesn’t know about orthotics and foot health isn’t worth knowing.”