Shoe posts strong clothing salesAbout four years ago, Red Wing Shoe Co. executives found themselves with a tough decision on their hands.
By: Sarah Gorvin, The Republican Eagle
About four years ago, Red Wing Shoe Co. executives found themselves with a tough decision on their hands.
For nearly 40 years the company had been supplying hardhats, gloves and other protection equipment for their oil and gas customers in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.
“We did it as a favor to these oil and gas companies,” Global Sales and Distribution General Manager Tito Warren said. That way, the Shoe’s global customers could get their work boots and work clothing all in one stop.
But a few years ago, new government safety standards requiring oil and gas workers to be outfitted in flame-retardant work wear were implemented. The products the Shoe was supplying did not meet these new standards.
“We were at the table and said, ‘Do we want to continue with this program or do we just let it die?’” Warren said. The Shoe “had to change or just leave the market.”
The answer: Evolve and continue.
Now, three years after the flame-retardant product line’s launch, sales have doubled every year, Warren said. He added that the company expects to sell more than 700,000 pieces of work wear this year.
The Shoe currently sells the products to oil and gas companies around the world. Because the five largest oil hubs are located in the North Sea, Singapore, Dubai, Russia and Texas, the work wear line had to include products for multiple climates.
“Our goal is to cover a worker from minus 50 degrees to 150 degrees,” Warren said.
That means the line includes everything from shirts, bibs and pants to parkas, jackets and coveralls. The Shoe has also patented women’s flame-retardant work wear.
“It’s engineered completely differently (than the men’s),” Warren said.
To make the products, the Shoe contracts with manufacturers in Pakistan, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, China and Poland.
“They’re close to major oil and gas hubs,” Warren said.
The products are then sold directly to oil and gas companies or through the Shoe’s distributors.
It’s not clear yet whether the products will be sold in the Red Wing company’s retail stores.
“We are currently studying our go-to market strategy for development areas and how we want to utilize that with our store footprint,” Warren said.
As far as the retail price for each piece of flame-retardant work wear, Warren simply said the pieces can cost as much as the company’s work boots (which can retail at hundreds of dollars a pair.)
“We’re definitely not the cheapest in the market place. It reflects our commitment to quality,” Warren said. “Everything that we put into our work wear is the same process that we put into our (footwear): Performance and quality.”