Merrell (company)

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Founded1981; 38 years ago (1981)
FounderClark Matis
Randy Merrell
John Schweizer
ParentWolverine World Wide

Merrell is an American footwear company founded by Clark Matis, Randy Merrell, and John Schweizer 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.

Company history[edit]


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,[1] The pair decided to join forces with Randal Ivan Merrell (R.I. Merrell), a maker of highly-praised custom boots which retailed for $500 a pair.[2] Matis set to work designing a more affordable high-performance boot, which was developed in 1982.[2] 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.[2]

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.[2]

In 1986, Randy Merrell sought to return to his previous life as a maker of custom boots and sold his share of the company bearing his name.[2] That same year the company sold its 25,000th pair of boots.[2]

Sale to Karhu[edit]

In 1987, Merrell was purchased by Karhu. The new owners moved production of Merrell products to Asia, reducing retail prices and expanding sales.[2] In 1988, sales of Merrell products topped the $4 million mark.[2]

A period of rapid growth for Merrell followed with 1989 sales increasing by 50%, to the $6 million mark.[2] 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.[2] The company became a global enterprise, with divisions established in Canada, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and the United States.[2]

The year 1992 saw another doubling of the company's sales volume, topping the $20 million mark.[2] By the middle of the decade, Merrell products were being sold in 22 countries.[2]

Sale to Wolverine World Wide[edit]

Merrell lightweight trail running shoes

In 1997, Karhu sold Merrell to Wolverine World Wide, a large footwear corporation which manufactured Hush Puppies shoes and Wolverine brand boots. In the year of the Wolverine acquisition, Merrell sales volume totaled $23 million.[3]

Wolverine introduced a new lighter-weight sensibility to the line, beginning with a trail running shoe called the "Jungle Runner."[4] 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.[4]

The work of Matis' design group culminated with the introduction of what would become the brand's signature shoe, the "Jungle Moc."[2] The new product was a smash success, with total shipments of Jungle Mocs hitting 3.5 million pairs by 2002.[2] The 10 millionth pair of Jungle Mocs was shipped in 2009, with the style continuing in production to the present date.[2]

In 2007, the Merrell line was expanded yet again to include apparel and accessories.[2]

By 2010, Merrell products were being sold in 151 countries.[2] Annual sales for the brand totaled nearly $500 million in 2010.[3]

The company operates 116 of its own concept stores around the world, with another 20 to 25 new stores planned to open in 2011.[5] 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.[5]


  1. ^ "Upward Bound," Footwear News, vol. 67, no. 2 (January 17, 2011), pg. 18.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Wayne Niemi, "Upward Bound," Footwear News, vol. 67, no. 2 (January 17, 2011), pg. 18.
  3. ^ a b Wayne Niemi, "Making Merrell," Footwear News, vol. 67, no. 2 (January 17, 2011), pg. 13.
  4. ^ a b 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.
  5. ^ a b Kristen Henning, "Retail Revamp," Footwear News, vol. 67, no. 2 (January 17, 2011), pg. 20.

External links[edit]