New Allen Edmonds Exec Expands Product Lineup

NEW YORK — Allen Edmonds’ new CEO is ready to battle the tough economy.

Paul Grangaard, who began work at the Port Washington, Wisc.-based company last fall, is rolling out two new launches, including the Crossover Collection of rubber-sole classics and the Timeless American Classics series, a relaunch of leather-sole styles that had been retired from the line.

Crossover is a package of dress-casual, rubber-sole footwear under the newly created sub-brand AE Allen Edmonds. Set to hit stores next month, the line retails for $199, a new entry-level price point for Allen Edmonds, which traditionally sells footwear for $225 to $325. “Rubber bottoms are more and more preferred today,” said Grangaard. “There are opportunities out there.”

Those opportunities include bringing a younger customer into the Allen Edmonds franchise, explained Grangaard. “We figured out how to get to our future customers earlier in their lives,” he said about Crossover’s more moderate prices and relaxed fashion attitude.

Even the collection’s name was intended to attract a trendier customer, taking inspiration from what Grangaard describes as trendy areas in New York, Boston and other major cities. Included in the offering is the Tribeca, a three-eyelet tie style, and the Back Bay, a penny moc.

To date, the company’s fashion hunch has been right. Even in a challenging retail environment, Allen Edmonds received orders for 20,000 pairs, with the series expected to account for 60 percent of its spring ’09 bookings, according to Grangaard. “We think we’re in a good spot,” he said.

However, Grangaard also is optimistic about the brand’s dressier offerings. He predicted that men will start dressing up again, thanks, in part, to the influence of President Barack Obama and the renewed importance of looking professional in the workplace during a tight job market.

To that end, the brand this month is relaunching four of its bestselling leather-sole styles in the U.S. under the Timeless American Classics umbrella. The shoes will retail at about $279.

“We’ve had lots of requests for these shoes,” said Grangaard, referring to the Strand, a cap-toe brogue, and the McAllister, a wing-tip version. “They’re classic looks at a classic price.”

Both the Crossover and Classics series are produced in Allen Edmonds’ plants in Maine and Wisconsin. While the company remains committed to manufacturing in the U.S., Grangaard said it was forced to lay off workers at its Wisconsin plant last November due to a drop in welted business in 2008 compared with 2007.

With the spring ’09 product lineup in place, though, Grangaard said Allen Edmonds will continue to expand its offerings under the AE Allen Edmonds sub-brand for fall.

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