Kirkcaldy woman who turned £200 loan into global retail empire dies

Catherine Paver started the Pavers footwear empire. Picture: Contributed
Catherine Paver started the Pavers footwear empire. Picture: Contributed

A Kirkcaldy woman who turned a £200 loan into a multimillion pound global retail empire has died.

Catherine Kinloch Paver, who started Pavers footwear, passed away at the age of 88, having helped raise a small family business into an international retail organisation with over 160 shops across three continents.

Born in Kirkcaldy in 1928, she was one of five children.

Catherine’s original business loan to start up her own business was rejected in 1971, but she successfully reapplied for the same amount to purchase a ‘sofa’ only two weeks later - over the course of her near 50 year career with Pavers she was frequently recognised as one of the most successful female retailers of her generation.

She won Draper’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, being recognised alongside James Dyson, Vivienne Westwood, and Victoria Beckham in Management Today’s Top 100 Entrepreneurs in 2015, and again in 2016.

According to a statement released by the company, she was a true maverick; visionary retailer with a determination to prove her doubters wrong.

With Catherine’s plain-talking approach, combined with an splash of Scottish verve, the shoe business quickly grew. After a period of selling from people’s living rooms and pioneering out-of-town retailing, the company opened its first high street shop, in Scarborough, in 1982.

Many more shops throughout the UK and Ireland have opened since, as did an overseas venture which operates retail locations throughout the Middle East, India, and Sri Lanka.

Catherine has been described as an outstanding woman of substance who oozed charisma, drive, determination and passion for an industry she loved.

However, despite footwear being in her DNA, her first love, and the one she treasured above all other, was for her family. A devoted mother to her three sons, all of whom later joined her in the business, and as a grandmother, and great-grandmother, she considered this element of her life probably her finest work, and in which her spirit will undoubtedly live on.

Illness and pain never diminished her love for shoes and she was brightest in her last few days when discussing buys for Autumn/Winter 2017.

She spent the last couple of weeks surrounded by family, friends and colleagues enjoying every last moment of a long and well-lived life.