Florsheim et al

31 October 2002

The rocky road of footwear manufacturing continues in the US but with a nice touch of irony the Weyco Group are buying the Florsheim brand name. Weyco's ceo is Thomas W Florsheim jr but his grandfather sold control of the brand around 50 years ago. Florsheim's father, also Thomas, left the Florsheim Group after the sale and in the 1960s bought control of what would become Weyco. By late 2001, Chicago-based Florsheim were witnessing plunging sales and near insolvency. While the younger Mr Florsheim is delighted with the $47 million deal, which included 700,000 pairs of shoes and other assets, the group, which was formerly debt-free, have had to borrow and their management and systems will be stretched across a much wider operation. Following on from the demise of the Florsheim organisation, the last remaining US shoe plant of Dexter Shoe Co, in Dexter, Maine, was due to close at the end of September. In the past three years, the company have shut down in Milo, Skowhegan and Newport, Maine. In the same time scale, Franklin Shoe Co, G H Bass & Co and Cole-Haan have also shut down New England-based operations. On the other hand, Skechers have improved their performance this year and, in a forward-looking move, have signed a 25-year lease for a 241,736 sq ft warehouse in Liège, Belgium, to serve as a distribution centre for Europe.

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