At a time when manufacturing in Australia is struggling, sheepskin boot specialists Mortels has more than doubled its staff and its production.
The Thornton family operation is going from strength to strength and is proud to say their products are Australian made.
Their growth comes at a time when one of Australia’s top ugg-boot manufacturers has been battling the tax office, as the local industry complains of cheeky imports and being blocked from using the work “ugg” when selling their sheepskin boots overseas.
There are about a dozen sheepskin footwear manufacturers in Australia, but Ugg Australia is the only one with its own tannery.
Several weeks ago the Australian Tax Office applied to wind up Ugg Australia – estimated to be one of the top five Australian-made sheepskin footwear manufacturers – due to a debt.
Stephanie Mortel said there were no implications for her family’s business and said Mortels was growing at a healthy rate.
“We tell people who come through on tour groups that the majority of ugg boots sold in the country are imported and have the country of origin tags removed prior to sale. After clearing customs they are re-labelled with Australian made tags,” she said.
“Implications for us here is that it creates competition with cheaper and inferior products and leads to the demise of manufacturing,” Mrs Mortel said.
“We use Australian sheepskin but our thread, binding and soling materials are made overseas. There are no manufacturers in Australia for that type of product.”
Since they moved to their new premises on Weakley’s Drive 18 months ago, Mortel’s staff grew from 19 staff to 39.
In the year after the move Mortel’s made 35,000 pairs of ugg boots and slippers, an increase of 15,000.
“We have the capacity at our new factory to increase production further and staff numbers will increase again to meet the extra production needs when we open additional shops.”
Mortel’s sales are mostly domestic and carry the Mortels Ugg branding on products.
Any international sales via the Internet are tagged Mortels.