Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Allen Edmonds was recently featured as the cover story for FedEx Access magazine. Made in America: Allen Edmonds and the accompanying video prompted spirited questions and responses while providing a look behind the curtain of our humble and growing operation. The answer to one reader’s query, in particular, bears sharing here.
"Less than 2% of the shoes purchased in the U.S. are made in U.S. manufacturing plants. Allen Edmonds is one of the last remaining U.S. shoe manufacturers. We make 90% of our shoes in our plants on the shores of Lake Michigan in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Our employment in the U.S. since 2010 has grown over 50%, by over 250 people, and we employ about 700 people now in our country(and still counting). Sales hit a new record for the company in 2011 and we grew 20% per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
All of our shoes made in the U.S. are made of two sewn-on-sole constructions. They're high value shoes made of high end leathers in multi-step handcrafted methods that can support higher pricing. About 80% of our sales are made in the 212-step Goodyear welted handcrafted process for which we're overwhelmingly known, and the rest are American handsewns that have the sole sewn through the bottom of the shoe (our bestselling Maxfield style is made this second way).

During the darkest days of the Great Recession, I became frustrated by the poor sales of our uncompetitively priced boat shoes and driving moccasins, and by the huge majority of the shoe industry that's dominated by cemented rubber sole construction, a construction method in which we had no expertise, experience, capital equipment or product offerings. We were forfeiting the dominant part of the men's shoe industry by being either too costly in boat shoes and drivers, and completely absent from the cemented bottom market — and I really hated forfeits when I played sports as a kid.

So, we started making a few styles in the Dominican Republic. There's a strong base of cemented-sole and boat shoe manufacturing down there we were able to tap into. We're careful to use a sub-brand — "ae by Allen Edmonds" and "Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf by Allen Edmonds" — for our DR-made styles. If it says only "Allen Edmonds" in the heel, its one of the 90% we make in Wisconsin.

Having 10% of our sales in DR-made shoes helps us grow our store base, our non-production employment (such as the new distribution center highlighted in the article above) and it allowed us to enter the golf market with a fighting chance against all the China-made shoes. I can assure you that building U.S. employment is a big part of what motivates our leadership team every day. I remember welcoming a new side-laster to our Goodyear welt Blue Production Line a while ago. He had been unemployed for a couple of years, making ends come closer together (but not meet) through unemployment insurance and landscaping jobs. As I thanked him for joining our team, he thanked me for the job and said, "This job is the difference between my daughter going to college and not going to college." Making that kind of difference in people's lives is the best part of our recent success."

Best wishes,