Whalley Warm & Dry celebrate 15 years of serving Lancashire walkers

Jon, centre, with the Whalley Warm & Dry team

Jon, centre, with the Whalley Warm & Dry team - Credit: Archant

Our walking correspondent John Lenehan visits an award-winning Ribble Valley business that is celebrating 15 years of success

The custom-made insole

The custom-made insole - Credit: Archant

There are few places as beautiful as the Ribble Valley and neighbouring Bowland. It really is a walking paradise. From the airy heights of Pendle Hill to gentle rambles by crystal clear rivers, the area has it all.

It was here in 2000, in the quaint village of Whalley, that Jon Smith opened his shop Whalley Warm & Dry. Jon was well aware of the increasing number of walkers and ramblers arriving to explore the area and the need for an outdoor clothing and footwear specialist was obvious. As an experienced walker himself, he knew the two golden rules: good clothing for any weather and top quality comfortable boots.

Jon is a far-sighted businessman and poor quality clothing that promised hurricane protection but failed at the first shower would have no place at Whalley Warm & Dry. He decided he would rise above ‘good’ and offer the ‘best’ clothing any walker could buy. His choice was Paramo, among the worlds’ best and most comfortable all-round waterproof clothing. It proved to be a wise choice. In 2004 Whalley Warm & Dry became Paramo’s Premier Retailer of the year.

Boots are without doubt the most controversial item any walker can buy. Jon realised this and again decided he would only sell the best. He arranged to stock leather walking boots made by the last British boot maker Alt-Berg, and footwear by Meindle.

The vacuum moulder creates a unique insole

The vacuum moulder creates a unique insole - Credit: Archant

In 2008 Whalley Warm & Dry became the largest stockists of Alt-Berg boots in the country, stocking all sizes and half sizes from 4-12 and all widths.

The story could end here but not quite. Jon and his family, who later joined him in the business, are not people who content to stand still.

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When the internet challenge arrived they embraced it. The digital high street was the place Whalley Warm & Dry needed to be to go forward. With foresight and a lot of hard work, a website was built and now an order from Paris is as usual as a sale in the shop in Whalley.

The next move by this industrious family was, to my mind, pure genius.

The data from each fitting is highlighted on a computer screen

The data from each fitting is highlighted on a computer screen - Credit: Archant

Boots, no matter how good and perfect in construction, suffer one problem. They have to be put onto imperfect feet and by the laws of nature we are all different.

What if, they thought, we could come up with a way of making the boots match the shape of the individual foot. That way, the boot would be guaranteed to fit perfectly and would be superbly comfortable. They contacted leading podiatrists for advice and some family members even embarked on a journey to gain professional qualifications.

Armed with the knowledge, they now needed the equipment to take the dream forward, and this technological kit does not come cheap. I am sure that there were many collective sleepless nights at the size of the investment needed.

Between 2009 and 2011 the boot department began to look like a high tech laboratory with the introduction of ‘Thermo–Moulding Technology’. This means a mould is taken of the foot and an insole is made that’s a 100% copy it. The result, as I know from having a fitting myself, turns boots to bedroom slippers.

In 2010, The Ramblers voted Whalley Warm & Dry the Best Independent Outdoor Retailer. In 2013, they were named as the Best Independent Footwear Retailer at the Footwear Industry Awards.

I am sure that Whalley Warm & Dry customers and suppliers will congratulate Jon and family on reaching this 15th Year, but you can’t help thinking this is just a milestone on a wonderful march to even greater things.

Whalley Warm & Dry, 82 King St, Whalley, BB7 9SN. 01254 822220. www.whalleyoutdoor.co.uk

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