Shoe celebrates record yearFor Red Wing Shoe Co., winning the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce’s Manufacturer of the Year award is the icing on the cake for 2011. Or maybe we should say polish on the boot.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
For Red Wing Shoe Co., winning the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce’s Manufacturer of the Year award is the icing on the cake for 2011. Or maybe we should say polish on the boot.
In its 106th year in business, the company saw record-setting revenue and growth last year. Shoe President Dave Murphy said the company also donated more than ever to various community groups and non-profits, including the United Way.
“We care about the well-being of the community. It’s nice to know they appreciate that,” Murphy said of the award.
The Shoe has been a member of the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce for “a long time,” Murphy said and is currently one of its seven diamond members. The biggest benefit of membership is being able to help the chamber support Red Wing, Murphy said.
“We want a healthy community,” he said, adding that strong businesses attract talented employees and provide a great place for them to live. “It’s just good for the community.”
The Shoe has been nominated before for the manufacturer of the year award and won it before, most recently in 2005.
But setting this latest win apart is the outstanding year the company had. In 2011, the Shoe broke the $500 million mark in revenue for the first time ever and grew 16 percent, with shipments of shoes up 14 percent. As a result, employment was up 8 percent, and the company was able to issue record bonus payouts.
“We had a good year and we want them to share in it,” Murphy said of the Shoe’s shareholders.
The reason behind the company’s successful year?
“I think we really worked on fundamentals,” Murphy said. “Focusing clearly on key business issues.”
That includes things like providing employees with better training, expanding the Shoe’s social media presence and spending more money on advertising than ever before.
“We’re investing in our business,” Murphy said.
Big changes for the company also came in 2011. It has continued expanding its apparel lines, which focus on protective clothing for oil and mine workers, an industry growing in states like Texas and North Dakota as well as internationally. Murphy said the Shoe developed the flame-retardant garments about four or five years ago, but the line “really gripped the road in 2011.”
In another move, the Shoe and Carhartt mutually decided to cut ties last year, which gave the Shoe the opportunity to expand its own Irish Setter Work brand. The new line, which will focus on selling the work boots to big box and self-service shoe retailers, is expected to hit stores next month.
“We really feel that we made strong strategic improvements,” Murphy said.
In addition, the Shoe was able to sign three multi-year union contracts that resolved what Murphy called “challenging issues.” He added that the unions agreed on the contracts with what he called “pretty good vote totals.”
“We feel good about that,” Murphy said.
Looking into 2012, Murphy said the company is hoping to continue to grow. Currently the Shoe is selling its products in 110 countries, and there really aren’t any more countries that they feel they need to be in, Murphy said. Instead, “the key really is to leverage the countries we’re in to do more,” he said.
Another goal is to be more efficient and to make decision-making more streamlined. Murphy was quick to point out that that means not fewer employees, just fewer “hiccups.”
“Whatever we do, just doing it better,” he said.
For now, the Shoe is looking ahead to its shareholders meeting, which will take place in March. And while the Shoe’s fiscal year, which began in December, is still just a few months old, Murphy said he’s pleased with the numbers so far.
“Things look good, but it’s early,” he said. “If I could duplicate ’11 and perform in the same fashion in ’12 that would be nice.”