McKinlays Of Dunedin

by Insiders Dunedin

Today we went and visited a true family business who has been operating in Dunedin since 1879. Originally from Scotland, they moved to Dunedin to start what was called the Arrow Boot company that has been passed on down the generations, now known as McKinlay of Dunedin. Currently run by two brothers who employee a staff of 21.

McKinlays Footwear current staff have 368 years of combined industry experience. Most employees have spent on average 17 years with the company, many dedicating over 40 years to the business. With the industry being lost in New Zealand, we were told that there are very few people interested in the craft. The apprenticeship programmes that were sought after positions are a thing of the past. However, the interest in the design side has become rather popular.

The footwear they make is still a very hands-on approach, focussing on a craft that they have stuck to throughout their many years of operation. They are renowned for their top-down stitch construction. The process is where the leather upper is stretched over the last and turned out and stitched through to the mid-sole and then attached to the sole. A very different process to a cement lasted process that 80% of the world-wide market utilises. In the scheme of things, this makes McKinlays footwear quite unique, but allows them a lot of flexibility. The process they have perfected over many years allows them to do small run production with small lead times. They can easily change the type of sole and chop and change designs as they please for their customers. A service they describe can not be achieved when ordering off-shore and forced into large order numbers based on the style of production. 

They work from a number of standard designs as the introduction of new styles adds to the cost of production. Despite the demand for new designs, the bulk of their business comes from the production of school shoes. McKinlays also craft custom and modified footwear as well as,  manufacture for other well known labels looking to offer a New Zealand made aspect to their business. Supporting the New Zealand made movement, most of their leather used to manufacture their footwear is sourced from Tasman Tanning in Wanganui. 

The retail store they operate on George Street is a standalone store. It sells all of the McKinlays footwear as well as, a number of items imported from Europe. They send a small amount of stock into Melbourne and Japan. However, majority of their market is focused on New Zealand with a retail store in Dunedin and distribution channels throughout the country. McKinlays although steeped in tradition are looking to the future. They currently run an e-commerce platform, but understanding the importance of the changing markets are in the process of totally redesigning this to better cater this sales channel. 

This business is a true example of sticking to what you know and doing it well. Something that they attribute to their success. They are not a high-end label so are not forced to change their styles constantly which adds costs to production. Instead, they stick to being masters at what they do. 

If you are after a high quality shoe that will last, McKinlays is the place to visit. As mentioned earlier they have a retail store at 454 George Street, Dunedin and can be found online at or 

Post submitted by Joshua Jeffery
Photography by Motion Sickness Studio



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