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Family-run Beggs Shoes marks 155th anniversary with move to pay workers real Living Wage

By Lorna Thompson

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FAMILY-RUN retailer Begg Shoes – which runs two stores in Elgin – is marking 155 years in business with a move to pay its workers the real Living Wage.

Begg Shoes is a sixth-generation business with nine standalone stores in Scotland, including Beggs on Elgin High Street and Elgin Shoes at 105.

The company has been accredited by the Living Wage Foundation to provide the only UK wage rate that reflects the cost of living, which is significantly higher than the UK Government's National Living Wage for over-23s.

A new real Living Wage of £9.90 has been announced today, increasing from £9.50.

The government's National Living Wage for over-23s is currently £8.91, due to rise to £9.50 in April next year.

More than 700 employers have voluntarily become accredited Living Wage employers through the Living Wage Scotland programme at the Poverty Alliance since pandemic lockdowns began in March last year.

Begg Shoes is one of the oldest surviving independent shoe retailers in the UK.

Beggs Shoes managing director Donald Begg.
Beggs Shoes managing director Donald Begg.

Managing director Donald Begg said: "Our move to the real Living Wage is a fitting way for us to mark our 155 years in business.

"We are proud to become one of the few bricks-and-mortar retailers to offer this higher rate of pay.

"The specialist footwear knowledge of our in-store professionals is a big part of our success and longevity.

"We have long felt that our teams are the best in the business. It's indicative of how we have continuously adapted and invested in our staff over the last two centuries."

He added: "Our move to the real Living Wage will help ensure our stores continue to operate with a high level of service, and support our growth for many years to come.

"We think our predecessors would be pleased with our vision and investment in people who, since the very start of the business, have helped make our progress possible."

The company started life in 1866 as a modest one-man shoemaker, Alexander Begg, from New Pitsligo.

In 2013, as well as facilitating considerable expansion, the purchase of five DE Shoes stores also enabled the retention of 40 jobs. More recently, the business played a key role in lobbying for government grants during the pandemic to ensure all of its stores were retained while also helping to safeguard jobs.

Lynn Anderson, Living Wage Scotland manager, said: "We're delighted that Begg Shoes have become an accredited Living Wage employer.

"The Living Wage movement has grown significantly, but too many workers employed in the retail sector remain in the grip of low pay and are struggling to cover their everyday needs.

"There are more than 2400 accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland, yet less than 5 per cent of these employers operate in retail.

"The Living Wage commitment of Begg Shoes is an important demonstration of leadership in tackling low pay in the retail sector."

Headquartered in Inverness, Begg Shoes also has stores in Inverness High Street, Inverness Union Street, Inverurie, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Perth and Peterhead.

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