|Founded||Waitsfield, Vermont, 1981|
|Headquarters||Rockford, Michigan, U.S.|
|Parent||Wolverine World Wide|
Merrell is a footwear company founded by Clark Matis, Randy Merrell, and John Schweitzer in 1981 as a maker of high-performance hiking boots. Since 1997 the company has been a wholly owned subsidiary of shoe industry giant Wolverine World Wide. The company recorded total sales of footwear and clothing of nearly $500 million in 2010.
Merrell was established in 1981 when two executives for the Rossignol ski company, Clark Matis and John Schweizer, decided to launch a new maker of hiking boots based in Waitsfield, Vermont. The pair decided to join forces with Randy J. Merrell (R.J. Merrell), a maker of highly-praised custom boots which retailed for $500 a pair. Matis set to work designing a more affordable high-performance boot, which was developed in 1982. Plans were made for production of the new line in factories located in Italy, a leading exporter of footwear to the world market at the time.
In 1983, the new Merrell company delivered its first product to the market, making shipments to a pair of east coast retailers specializing in hiking gear.
In 1986, Randy J. Merrell sought to return to his previous life as a maker of custom boots and sold his share of the company bearing his name. That same year the company sold its 25,000th pair of boots.
Sale to Karhu
In 1987 Merrell was purchased by Karhu. The new owners moved production of Merrell products to Asia, reducing retail prices and expanding sales. In 1988 sales of Merrell products topped the $4 million mark.
A period of rapid growth for Merrell followed with 1989 sales increasing by 50%, to the $6 million mark. By 1990, some 300,000 pairs of shoes and boots were being sold annually, with sales for the year topping the $10 million mark for the first time. The company became a global enterprise, with divisions established in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Scandinavia in addition to the United States.
Sale to Wolverine World Wide
In 1997, Karhu sold Merrell to Wolverine World Wide, a giant footwear corporation which manufactured Hush Puppies shoes and Wolverine brand boots. In the year of the Wolverine acquisition, Merrell sales volume totaled $23 million.
Wolverine introduced a new lighter-weight sensibility to the line, beginning with a trail running shoe called the "Jungle Runner." This initial foray into lightweight footwear was not a commercial success, but a team led by Clark Matis came up with the idea of using a very aggressive trail running outsole with a casual slip-on upper made of pigskin suede, a material previously perfected and used extensively in the Hush Puppies line.
The work of Matis' design group culminated with the introduction of what would become the brand's signature shoe, the "Jungle Moc." The new product was a smash success, with total shipments of Jungle Mocs hitting 3.5 million pairs by 2002. The 10 millionth pair of Jungle Mocs was shipped in 2009, with the style continuing in production to the present date.
In 2007, the Merrell line was expanded yet again to include apparel and accessories.
The company operates 116 of its own concept stores around the world, with another 20 to 25 new stores planned to open in 2011. Merrell has declared that it is aiming for 15% of its sales to come through company stores and e-commerce sometime in the near future.
- Wayne Niemi, "Upward Bound," Footwear News, vol. 67, no. 2 (January 17, 2011), pg. 18.
- Wayne Niemi, "Making Merrell," Footwear News, vol. 67, no. 2 (January 17, 2011), pg. 13.
- Wayne Niemi, "The Next Chapter: Wolverine President and CEO Blake Krueger Reveals How the Brand Plans to Exploit New Growth Opportunities," Footwear News, vol. 67, no. 2 (January 17, 2011), pg. 14.
- Kristen Henning, "Retail Revamp," Footwear News, vol. 67, no. 2 (January 17, 2011), pg. 20.