Friday, April 30, 2010

One of the things I like best about my job is reading letters from people I call “Allen Edmonds Men” – stand up guys who invariably take their multiple roles in life very seriously, and themselves less so. They always have interesting, often entertaining and even inspirational tales to tell about an experience with their Allen Edmonds shoes. We’re honored to be associated with these men.

Earlier this month I received a great letter from Bob Moore, a business executive from North Carolina. Finishing a work trip to New York, Bob was wearing a pair of Allen Edmonds when he boarded that fateful U.S. Air flight that ended up making an emergency landing on the Hudson River.

With his permission, below is Bob’s inside story of what happened that day,which he prepared for family and friends. If you’re looking for some reassurance about the American spirit of goodwill amid today’s scandal epidemic, read on…

Best wishes,

Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation

“Flight 1549.

The Airbus was a little late leaving LaGuardia airport. Nothing unusual with that. Leaving LGA on-time …. now that would be unusual. About a minute or so into the flight, I heard a loud “BANG” coming from what I thought was the right side of the plane. The plane was shaking. Then it seemed all the mechanicals stopped because the normal noises ceased. We started a slow turn to the left and I figured we were returning to the airport because something was really bad. I don’t think any of us on the plane realized for certain we were going down until the pilot announced for us to brace for impact. I then assumed the position of doing my best to inspect the shoes of the guy sitting behind me. It seemed forever between the “bang” and the captain’s announcement and an equal lifetime between his announcement and the impact.

In that position at that time is when I had the calmest moment of my life. I realized we were going to crash and die. I asked the Lord to let me in and that I was looking forward to seeing Him. I prayed for Him to watch out for Manchie and the kids and be with them. I hoped we would miss any heavily occupied buildings (that was a just a thought, but apparently He looked after that too).

Impact was not at all bad. My hands were on top of my head since I was doing shoe inspections and my right hand was slightly scratched and is swollen. No damage to my other hand or my head. I then thought, “Well, Bob, seems you may have a thing or two left to do here on earth.”

As soon as we stopped, and that doesn’t take long when you land on/in the water, we started our herd mentality to exit the plane. I think this was about the first time I heard “women and children first”. It was repeated often and was actually followed as best we could in such confined spaces.

We exited onto the right wing. The water was up to the top of my shoes when I got on the wing or shortly after. Our raft had inflated, but was upside down and pushed back against the side of the plane. Men closest to the back edge of the wing were trying to wrestle the raft closer and turn it over so folks could get on. Well, the guys were having no success with righting the raft, but had managed to get it closer to the wing as the water reached our knees and then someone yelled…“get on the raft…. The bottom is ok…. It will work that way.” That’s when the women and children rule kicked in again.

Then eureka…!! A guy noticed a ferry heading our way. The ferry’s ladder had a small platform at the end just at the water’s surface. When my turn to leave the plane/boat came, we had to jump for the ladder as it was not always right at the wing. The ladder only accommodated one at a time, so we stayed there until each “right wing” person got aboard. Aside: was I on the correct wing or what?

I was soaking wet and slightly cold. Being immersed in freezing water and standing in freezing air tends to chill a person. Some gentleman draped his suit coat over me and a lady asked if I wanted to use her cell phone. Turns out, they were two of the passengers on the ferry when our plane went in.

Of course the ferry terminal was not prepared for large influx of cold, wet non-passengers. The two kids running the small snack shop in the terminal opened it up to us, giving us coffee, tea, hot chocolate, snacks…. whatever we wanted. Later, the owner showed up in a tux and wearing shades. I thanked him for what he was doing and he said: “hey man, it is the only thing we can do. We have to do this, it’s the right thing”. Or something close. He echoed the sentiments expressed in words AND actions by literally every person who was there…

…Got a few hugs and kisses from Manchie when I walked in the house. Guess an extra day in NYC made her miss me even more than usual. Not long after getting home, Manchie’s phone rang -- it was a USAirways customer service rep checking up on me. She said they would return any personal items they recovered and reimburse for medical expenses and lost items. Wish I could claim that new iPod, the brand new computer, my two Italian suits, Blu-Ray dvd player, those three pair of Allen Edmonds shoes (actually the ones that got ruined were Allen Edmond… drat.), the 42” flat screen TV, and the 2009 Escalade….

The overall experience was actually very positive. Seeing people at their best and coming to know that our life on this earth is fragile is rewarding. It tends to focus you on the important things.”

Bob Moore (fourth from the left below)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Last year, in the depths of the Great Recession, we came up with the idea of a promotional discount on our Recrafting services so that our loyal customers would have the chance to keep their favorite shoes in great shape, at a discounted price. We knew many customers were postponing buying new shoes until the economy improved and we wanted to help. We also wanted to keep our people occupied and to avoid further layoffs.

The results were astounding – we were inundated with shoes, so many in fact that the local U.S. Post Office in Port Washington called to ask, “What are you guys doing there?!” They wanted us to come see the boxes piled up on their dock. We ended up receiving about 8,000 pairs in three weeks. It took us about 6 weeks to catch up to the onslaught.

This year, we decided to do it again, but we expected reduced demand with the economy improving and sales of new shoes recovering. We were wrong. We’ve taken in well over 16,000 pair this year. While we’ve added to our Recrafting staffing to handle increased demand, we’re still going to need a few weeks to catch up again. Our apologies to those who hoped to receive their shoes back in the normal timeframe.

Here’s a picture of our Recrafting team surrounded by a fraction of the shoes that have been sent. John Bittner in the center heads the team and does a great job. He has spent his whole career in shoemaking at Allen Edmonds. Recrafting involves some different skills than are required to make new shoes, so we have this team dedicated to nothing else.

We’ll recraft some 50-60,000 pairs of Allen Edmonds shoes this year. Some of the shoes we’ll do are 30 or 40 years old and still in great shape. It’s like a walk through the archives to see these shoes come in for Recrafting, which is especially fun for our longer tenured employees and a real pride-builder for all of us at Allen Edmonds.

Best wishes,

Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Greetings –

As you may know, the shoe industry is an extremely price-competitive, global business. Fifty years ago, almost all shoes sold in the USA were made in this country. But today, over 90% of the shoes that are sold onshore are manufactured offshore, most often in China.

American manufacturing is a steadfast commitment that we have here at Allen Edmonds. We employ over 380 people in this country, mostly in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Sustaining and building that U.S. employee base is a big part of what drives our entire management team. We’re proud that we’re still able to sell hundreds of thousands of shoes per year that are Made in the USA, despite our higher U.S. labor costs. In fact, we strive to make superior quality products that represent the best value of any company manufacturing shoes anywhere.

Our hard work is paying off -- the robust strengthening of consumer demand for our products since November has us adding to our USA headcount in 2010 and we’ve hired about 25 production people just since January. As our Timeless Classics, new Executive Collection, Rugged Casuals, boots and other welted shoes continue to attract a wider customer following, we plan to hire more people here throughout the year and beyond. I tell you, hiring grateful new people sure beats the layoffs forced upon us by the global recession.

Another trend in the shoe industry over the past few years is that men are dressing very casually on the weekends. Competitors are matching consumers’ desires with simple boat shoe designs, flat lasted slip-ons, sandals, and… well, you know what kind of shoes you have in your closet that you like to wear around the house and yard. We call them ‘garage door’ shoes because men leave them by the garage door and slip them on before rushing to do an errand, getting the newspaper or walking the dog. They’re much simpler shoes to manufacture than our Timeless Classics with our 212-step USA manufacturing process. Boat shoes require low-cost manufacturing to sell at low prices.

Rather than continue to forfeit this substantial business opportunity to our 100% offshore competitors, we’ve decided to stand up and compete directly against them. Recently, we’ve begun producing a handful of lower-priced slippers and casual rubber-bottom slip-ons in our small company-owned plant in the Dominican Republic. We have developed this plant and trained the employees over the past three years. All of the people there are Allen Edmonds employees, working closely with our manufacturing and quality control executives in Wisconsin. These new products help us to sustain and improve our overall market share, to broaden our presence on the shelves of our dealers, to cover some of our U.S. overhead costs and to grow our company, which secures job growth in both the U.S. and the D.R. in the process.
The Boulder
What products am I talking about? The new BOULDER slip-on is one of them, as is the WINTHROP driving moccasin, the BANFF slipper and a couple styles of simple boat shoes that we’re introducing this summer. Our new Major League Baseball®-licensed “BASEBALL SHOES” – that we just introducedThe Banff for Opening Day 2010 -- also are being made in our DR plant so that we can keep the price low enough for fans of all ages to enjoy them. Our next Fall catalog will note which shoes are made in the DR for those of you who prefer American Made shoes. Likewise, our website will provide similar notation.

Our Made in USA shoes will remain 95% of our production this year and in the future. A handful of simpler styles we will make with our good people in the Dominican Republic, and thereby provide jobs and economic opportunity just a few hundred miles off of Florida (which is also good for America).

Many of you will not want to buy any shoe made outside of the U.S., which we really respect and appreciate. Others of you will make an exception for these simpler shoes, and we hope you’ll choose ours over the competition’s. Rest assured, all of our products will offer an incredible value, superior quality, and great American styling, backed by our commitment to superior customer service.

Thanks for your support of Allen Edmonds.

Warm regards,

Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation

Monday, April 5, 2010

Across the country, today is one of the most important days of the year, at least in my book… Opening Day of the pro baseball season. Today is also Opening Day for Allen Edmonds and our new licensing relationship with Major League Baseball® and we’re excited about it.

We’re introducing three new styles of boat shoes that carry the logos of your favorite teams. They’re intended to be fun and not taken too seriously (Facebook posts, please note). They’re good shoes for a tailgater at the ballpark, for relaxing on a casual weekend or for sharing a common love of the Great American Pastime with friends. They’re also great shoes for a father to share his passion of baseball with his son or daughter, which why we made them as small as size 5.

The BALLPARK is the shoe reminiscent of the today’s kids’ elite traveling teams and the pros – and like their bags of brand new baseballs, it’s all white and unscuffed. The SANDLOT has the look of a baseball that many of us spent hours hitting and tossing around in games of hotbox, 500 and pick-up ball in the street, at the local park or in some vacant lot. It’s made of distressed leather that looks like it has seen a lot of action in the long grass, the dirt and a mud puddle or two. The TEAM SHOE is the shoe for today’s hometown fan. My sons and I will be wearing the Minnesota Twins TEAM SHOES at Opening Day in the new Twins Ballpark. Those shoes will have sentimental value for years to come.

We’re also introducing Major League Baseball shoe trees and bat-themed tie hangers and belt hangers. They’re great gift-giving ideas for Father’s Day or any fan’s next birthday. How about taking a mundane closet article and giving it that something extra that puts a smile on your favorite fan’s face each day?

There’s something about baseball. Terrence Mann (James Earl Jones) in Field of Dreams had it right…"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America is ruled by it like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh, people will come, Ray. People will come most definitely come."

Play Ball,

Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation