Jun 07, 2023

Kiwi shoe polish to disappear from UK shelves but will still be available online

SC Johnson – the manufacturer of Kiwi shoe polish – has confirmed its shoe care products will no longer be sold in the UK, leaving some members of the Armed Forces and veteran community shocked.

For those members of the Armed Forces community still wishing to use certain shoe care products, SC Johnson has confirmed those products will still be available through online outlets.

Petroleum-based Kiwi leather polish is a firm favourite with those who are required to take part in military ceremonial events or parades, as they say, it provides a better shine than any of its shoe care competitors' products.

SC Johnson has said it is pulling the plug on Kiwi shoe polish sales in the UK because of an increase in the number of people working from home and the widespread wearing of casual footwear.

An SC Johnson spokesperson told Forces News: "The shoe polish category has shown a steady and long-term decline.

"There are several reasons for this change in demand, including a rise in wearing of casual shoes, which do not require formal polishing, and an overall decrease in consumers polishing their shoes.

"SC Johnson continues to maintain an active presence for the iconic Kiwi® brand in markets where formal shoe care remains relevant."

"The company acknowledges and appreciates the long-standing tradition of UK military members using our shoe care products", an SC Johnson spokesperson added.

"We are honoured to be trusted by our dedicated service members and we are working to supply the specific product military members typically use to an online outlet." the statement ended.

Former Parachute Regiment Warrant Officer Class One Brian Shaw posted to Twitter about the announcement, saying: "It's a military disaster."

In another post, military historian Dudley Giles has even suggested this may be an early April Fool's Day joke: "Surely this is an April Fool's Day article? If not, best get down to the shops sharpish!"

Kiwi was originally founded in 1906 by Australian William Ramsay. In 2011, it was sold by the Sara Lee Corporation to SC Johnson – the multibillion-pound firm responsible for brands such as Mr Muscle and Pledge furniture polish.

I loved this. Black kiwi shoe polish was an essential part of my life - carried it everywhere even on army exercises- yep we had to polish boots even when running around in the undergrowth. Balling my boots was 90% of my life once.

Black Kiwi shoe polish is still widely used by the thousands of members of the Household Division, who are based in London and responsible for guarding Royal residences, who are required to 'bull' their boots and leather belts to an incredibly high shine.

Some members of the military community have said the British military switching to brown leather boots has sped up the decline in the use of Kiwi polish among some troops.

Just a decade ago, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) confirmed that all Armed Forces personnel would receive a new range of brown leather combat boots to replace the black leather boots in widespread use among its troops.

As part of a contract worth £80m, personnel were given the choice of wearing five different types of brown leather or suede boots depending on their job role and where they were based.

At the same time, the MOD confirmed that black leather boots and shoes would continue to be worn with most non-camouflage uniforms such as Royal Air Force and Royal Navy blues, and by personnel on parade in full dress uniform, such as Guards regiments on ceremonial duties in central London.

The Kiwi shoe polish brand currently produces more than half of the world's leather polish products and is sold in more than 180 countries.

Some commenters have suggested that SC Johnson's announcement to remove their shoe care products will be great news for UK-owned shoe polish rival Cherry Blossom and England's oldest shoemaker, Tricker's, which also has a shoe care range.

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