British United Shoe Machinery

British United Shoe Machinery (BUSM) Ltd in Leicester, England was once the world's largest manufacturer of machinery and materials for the footwear industry.

In its Seventies heyday, BUSM was the city's biggest employer, with a workforce of more than 4,500 exporting shoe machinery to more than 50 countries around the world. In 1990, it won a Queen's Award for Export.

The company went into receivership in October 2000. In 2002, the remaining 65 staff relocated to a new £1.3m convert|25000|sqft|m2|abbr=on building at Warren's Industrial Estate. The firm finally went bust in 2003.


The company has a very long and complicated history.

The setting up of BUSM resulted from the creation of USM (then known as the United Shoe Machinery Company) in Boston, Massachusetts the United States in February 1899.

USM was an amalgamation of several engineering companies which each specialised in the manufacture of particular types of footwear machinery. The combined company was the only one able to supply a footwear manufacturer with all his machinery needs and in the first few years of its existence acquired many other smaller manufacturers of footwear machinery.

BUSM was formed in October 1899 by an amalgamation of the English branches of the American companies that formed USM and a Leicester engineering concern, Pearson and Bennion Ltd, which manufactured shoe machinery and also handled machinery manufactured by the Consolidated and McKay Lasting Machine Company one of the constituents of the merger in theUnited States.


On the formation of BUSM, it became exclusively entitled in the United Kingdom to the benefit of USM inventions and patents in the shoe machinery field free of royalty.

In the 1960s the company was declared a monopoly by the US Government and in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act. At the time, USM supplied 75% to 95% of the worldwide shoe machinery market, and operated 66 subsidiaries engaging in every area of shoemaking, including materials, chemicals, and fasteners. Between 1898 and 1960, USM developed and marketed nearly 800 new and improved shoe machines and patented more than 9,000 inventions.


In 1984 the Department of Trade and Industry sponsored a transformation of BUSM's manufacturing processes with what was one of Europe's most advanced flexible manufacuring systems, four KTM machining centres were installed for discreate component manufacturing.

Pension Collapse

When the company went bust in October 2000, the company's underfunded pension scheme collapsed leaving more than 1,000 former employees with little or no pension.

Ros Altmann, a leading pensions campaigner, says that the winding up of the BUSM pension scheme is one of the worst cases she has seen. She believes that the company's owner, venture capitalist firm Apax Partners, 'took advantage of all the loopholes in pensions law' to ensure there was little money in the scheme before BUSM collapsed.

In July 2005, Stephen Timms, the pensions minister, agreed to open an inquiry. In the 2007 Budget, Gordon Brown, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced substantially increased compensation for those who lost out in the collapse of the scheme.


Today, there are plans to re-develop the area off Belgrave Road where the company was located. Planning applications have been submitted for around 1,600 homes on the former site as part of a major re-development.

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