Allen Edmonds is an upscale shoe manufacturing and retail company based in Port Washington, Wisconsin. The company was established in Belgium, Wisconsin in 1922. Allen Edmonds operates 32 retail stores in 17 states. It manufactures the vast majority of its shoes in the United States and several pairs in Italy. It is one of four American shoe companies, along with E. Vogel, Alden and Johnston & Murphy, that still make men's dress shoes domestically. The company delivers three lines of men's shoes, including dress shoes, dress casual shoes, and, since 2006, a collection of Casual Comfort shoes, which are rubber-soled leather shoes with athletic styling.
In 2006, 90% of the shares in the company were bought by Minneapolis-based investment firm Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison for $100 million. In 2013, the company announced that it would be acquired by the private equity firm of Brentwood Associates.
Allen Edmonds gained much of its following after providing shoes to the Army and Navy during World War II, with many of the recipients of the shoes being loyal to the brand for the rest of their lives.
Allen Edmonds are an expensive brand of shoes that men typically wear for a very long time and repair rather than replace. The company offers recrafting services, rebuilding a pair of shoes for a fee, replacing soles and heels, creating a new cork base and strip, and reapplying the finish.
With about 98.5% of shoes sold in the U.S. produced overseas, Allen Edmonds is in a small minority of companies continuing to produce the majority of their shoes domestically. Allen-Edmonds Shoe Corporation's retired chairmen (and former owner), John Stollenwerk, once expressed a commitment to keep manufacturing in the U.S. In 2003, the company invested $1 million or 1.1% of the company's sales in a refitting of their factory intended to save 5% on the cost to produce each shoe. The factory has replaced assembly lines with teams of people working in groups where each employee does several different jobs. This new system reduces overtime, makes it easier to fill in for absent employees, reduces the time spent picking up and putting down shoes, and cuts down on the number of spoiled shoes.
Allen Edmonds pays their workers well, which puts them at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. Wages, benefits, government regulations of the workplace, emissions permits, taxes, and health care costs are all significant costs that could be drastically reduced by locating production overseas in a developing country. Stollenwerk remarked that moving the operation to China could save as much as 60%, but expressed concern that such a move could lead to a decline in quality. He has also expressed concerns about social problems brought on by globalization, such as low wages and factory closings in the U.S.
Currently, shoe uppers for a few of Allen Edmonds styles are made in the Dominican Republic due to lack of shoe sewers in the United States. The raw materials are sent there from the U.S., where the uppers are sewn together, then shipped to the factories in Lewiston, Maine, and Port Washington, Wisconsin, where they are assembled with other shoe parts, thus allowing them to be considered "Made in the USA."
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