Leather production was important in the south-west of Scotland from the earliest days of industry. Preparation of skins and hides produced leather, parchment and sheepskins for various purposes- including the manufacture of gloves and footwear. Although a major industry, it carried on for a long time without involving any large companies. One small business was started by George Clark in 1783 and was taken over by his son James. The business expanded and in 1908 merged with the English Company Abbott to form Saxone. Now operated by Burlington International, Saxone are still producing shoes today.
The leather industry was important in South West Scotland from early in the regions history. Preparation of skins and hides produced leather, parchment and sheepskins for various purposes including the manufacture of gloves and footwear. Although the industry became quite large it was for a long time carried out without any large companies being involved. One small business was started in Kilmarnock by George Clark in 1783 which eventually grew into a small company run by his son James. Shoemaking was by the beginning of the 1900's concentrated in Ayrshire, around the towns of Maybole, Ayr and Kilmarnock despite the fact that hardly any of the leather was tanned in Ayrshire by this time (The town of Maybole had ten factories employing 1,500 people and produced over one million pairs of shoes and boots every year!). Clark's company expanded and in 1908 it merged with the English company Abbott to form Saxone and at it's height employed over a thousand workers. Now operated by Burlington International, Saxone still produce shoes and their shops are a common sight in many high streets. Other sections of the industry have faired less well, at the end of the second world war only two of the original ten factories in Maybole survived employing only a fifth of the workforce which had operated there only fifty years previously; this was in part due to a decreased demand for heavy boots and partly as a result of the disruption caused by the war. By the late 1960's the industry was almost totally gone there.