|(L-R: Dale, Ron and Glenn Clarke - 1996)
Family is the cornerstone of Sky Soles’ foundations. The Clarke families association in a footwear business began in 1972 with Ronald Clarke. In the 45 years since it is has developed and evolved into Ron Clarke & Sons Pty Ltd, a family business that now spans three generations.
Ron started his career in footwear retail throughout regional Victoria in 1956 and from there developed his skills in customer service, style and fashion knowledge working his way from retail assistant to regional manager of a footwear outlet chain.
As Ron was getting established in the industry he met and married his wife Meryl. They had several shifts from town to town and interstate before the arrival of first born son, Dale in 1966.
The family moved to Hamilton, Victoria as Ron was given an opportunity to run a chain of four shoe stores called “Walkers of Hamilton”. With the outbreak of the Vietnam War, Ron soon found himself commuting between Hamilton and Portland assisting a friend in his footwear business who had been called for National service leading to slight changes in the operations and Ron, Meryl and Dale made the move to live in Portland settling there until 1972.
During their time in Portland Ron and Meryl’s second son Glenn was born. This settled period in the family’s life allowed Ron to make significant inroads in his career building on his solid footwear retailing background. Meanwhile Meryl also pursued her career in banking administration. Ron received numerous accolades from colleagues and completed multiple training courses including a fitting masters qualification.
In the late 1960’s in Australia a change in the perception of footwear occurred and the industry entered a significant growth period. With the business growing and his expertise becoming well known in the industry, Ron was offered a partnership in an agency business based out of Melbourne in 1972. This agency business was to cover a territory including all of Victoria and parts of New South Wales.
Capitalising on a geographical advantage, Ron and Meryl felt a move to Bendigo would be in the best interest of this new career and also beneficial for the family’s opportunities. Ron travelled weekly all over Victoria until 1978 when the changing dynamics and growth in the agency business forced him to part ways.
Ron’s significant retail experience allowed him to use this knowledge to great use in the agency world. He often challenged manufacturers on range building giving them clearer feedback of the retail perspective which allowed Ron to achieve better sales. Ron Clarke Agencies often worked with womens, mens, kids, golf, basketball and various other resources for footwear.
In the 1980’s there was a global expansion in the Golf industry, thanks to the popular Greg Norman. Ron became the agent for Niblick Golf during its inception and this brand soon became one of the most important parts of the Ron Clarke Agency business. Niblick’s rise was attributed to a technological advancement in injected moulding as well as significant exposure from well renowned golf professionals. As this expansion occurred, Ron realised that the business grew too big for him to run as a sole operator. It was in 1986 that elder son Dale joined the business and Ron Clarke & Son was born and began working with new suppliers like Slatters, Pacific Brands and Clarks.
|( Meryl and Ron Clarke during Clifton Hill Renovations - 1994)
|(The Clarke family at Ron and Meryl's Bendigo home during Ron's retirement celebrations in 2009)
Today Ron Clarke & Sons houses six main brands serving the Australian and New Zealand independent retail marketplaces. As well as manufacturing for major retailers and department stores. Pillows by Arkoo, Christiano Bellaria Designs, Katie ‘n Me, Minki, Pure Comfort and Sala – Europe, are the stalwart brands of this fashion house. Manufacturing throughout Europe, Turkey and China. Ron Clarke & Sons also continues its agency business for Slatters shoes and various other Australian importers.
The new showrooms are located at a new facility in Collingwood, Victoria. Dale and Glenn are excited by what the future holds for this now third generation family business. Ron retired in 2009 proud of what he and his family has built. All the team at Ron Clarke & Sons look forward to serving the needs of the Australian footwear market and also global footwear industries in the years to come. One guarantee is that change is inevitable and like all industries the footwear industry will continue toevolve and Sky Soles isa shining example of this.​