As the ’80s draw to a close, work and safety shoe manufacturers and importers said the decade had marked a return to steady work and safety shoe sales.
Many works and safety shoe makers reported yearly sales increases during that period, attributing the growth to a stable economy and having the right merchandise. And company officials are gearing up for what they hope will be another decade of growth.
A Good, Steady, Upward Climb
“It seems to be a good, steady, upward climb,” said William Ison, Vice President of sales, Musebeck Shoe Co., Oconomowoc, Wis. While Ison admitted that the market is not exploding, he characterized the growth as real.
Musebeck, whose work and safety footwear constitutes one-third of its men’s business, has increased by about 12 percent over year-ago figures. Ison anticipates that the work and safety sales will climb still higher when the company’s fiscal year ends this month.
“The market has increased because of the growth of the economy,” he observed. “More people are working now.”
Makers reported there is a stronger demand for particular types of work and safety products than there is for others. The demand for insulated work and safety footwear is not active, for instance, said Richard Sherwin, vice president, Dunham Shoes, Brattleboro, Vt. The strongest category, he said, is basic work and sports shoes. Dunham, which is running 8-9 percent ahead in sales, credited its new product category (work shoes) for the increase.
“If you want the long-term growth, you have to build the right products,” said James Levine, President, Import Systems International Inc., (ISI) the exclusive licensee for Dickies Brand footwear, here. In the cycle of changes in the work-and-safety market, many trends emerge and, at ISI, “The growth trend that Dickies has is a mixture of work and casuals.”
Levine noted the company’s business in the work and safety category grew by 75 percent in the last year.
For Lake of the Woods, Prentice, Wis., sales increases have been steady. The company’s growth in the work and safety market is 20 percent over last year, said Jerry Hess, vice president, and general manager.
“The market is becoming a more specialized business,” said Hess, referring to the growing number of shoes being offered for specific job functions.
Georgia/Durango Boot Co., Franklin, Tenn., reported the company’s safety shoe business had increased 10 percent over last year since it added steel toe athletic shoes. However, Leonard Paul, general manager of the firm, declined to provide figures for the work-shoe category.
As for C. Itoh Shoe Co. Inc., here, work and safety business has doubled in the past two years because the firm has begun sourcing in Czechoslovakia,” said Gary Miller, vice president of the company. Sourcing has a great deal to do with the increase in business, he added.
Business has been “exceptional,” for Warson Group Inc., St. Louis, since it entered the work and safety market in December ’88. Douglas Sproull, vice president of merchandising, said the company anticipates a growth of 20 percent in 1990. “The market has been relatively stable,” he advised. “A lot of people who have gained market share have increased at the expense of others.”