Red Wing Shoe Added 315 Jobs in 2010; Record Profits

The company, which was forced to scale back during the recession, has rebounded with record profits, new employees, and plans to add 125 stores in the next five years.

Red Wing Shoe Company, Inc., reported record earnings of $448 million for its fiscal year that ended in November-up 12 percent from 2009.

The privately held, Red Wing-based company attributes the growth to increased demand for its products, which include industrial footwear, hiking boots, and casual shoes.

Spokesman Peter Engel on Tuesday confirmed the company's earnings but declined to reveal 2010 revenue figures.

And while unemployment remains high-especially among Red Wing Shoe's key clientele in the construction and other blue-collar industries-an uptick in demand allowed the company to add 315 jobs in 2010, bringing its total employee count to roughly 2,200. About 1,100 of those employees work in Red Wing.

Red Wing Shoe was hit hard by the recession, and the company took numerous measures to scale back: In late 2009, it announced plans to close its Kentucky plant, offer early retirement packages, and eliminate a second work shift at its Red Wing plant, among other cost-cutting efforts. The company resumed its second shift and added positions in May 2010, and it said in August that it would retain its Kentucky facility with a smaller work force.

The company now has plans to open 125 new stores in the next five years. There are currently about 425 Red Wing Shoe stores, and roughly 70 percent of them are independent “dealerships.”

Engel said that dealerships are Red Wing Shoe's “preferred model.” The company does not collect franchise fees, marketing contributions, or royalties from store sales-but dealers are obligated to sell Red Wing Shoe products, and the company profits from wholesale business.

“Demand is back, but it's still pretty spotty in the United States,” Engel said, adding that the blue collar workers that comprise Red Wing Shoe's key market are still experiencing a higher unemployment rate than the national average. The company has seen growing international demand for its products, first in Japan and now in Europe, where Engel says the company's boots are worn in casual settings by people looking for “authentic American brands.”

Red Wing Shoe is a privately held company that has manufacturing facilities in Red Wing; Potosi, Missouri; and Danville, Kentucky. It distributes its shoes in more than 100 countries.