Over the last 130 years, Wolverine has gone from leather tanner to bootmaker to global lifestyle brand manager. Here are the key highlights.
– The Hirth-Krause Co. is founded by German-born Gustav Adolf Krause, a third-generation shoemaker and tanner.
– Krause and his sons build a shoe factory in Rockford, Mich., that makes 300 pairs of shoes daily.
– The Krauses build the Wolverine tannery and begin supplying their shoe factory with tough, durable horsehide.
– Company begins national advertising and its work shoes quickly become a household name.
– The Hirth-Krause Co. changes its name to Wolverine Shoe & Tanning Corp.
– Its sales force grows to 29.
– The casual shoe brand Hush Puppies is born, taking its name from the treats Southerners used to quiet barking dogs.
– Company ventures outside the U.S., as Hush Puppies signs its first international licensee, Greb Shoes Ltd. of Canada. Expansion into other countries quickly follows.
– Wolverine goes public on the New York Stock Exchange with the ticker WLV. Soon after, the firm changes its name to Wolverine World Wide Inc.
– Blake Krueger begins serving as outside legal counsel to Wolverine World Wide.
– Wolverine brand introduces DuraShocks, the first true comfort system for workboots, creating lighter, longer-lasting products.
– Company acquires the Caterpillar license.
– Hush Puppies is voted Fashion Accessory of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America. The firm’s media budget doubles to accommodate its first TV ad campaign.
– The Wolverine brand adopts in-your-face slogans to boost the tough-guy image of workboots, such as “Work like hell. Feel like heaven.”
– Krueger joins the firm as EVP, general counsel and secretary.
– Global distribution reaches 60 countries.
– Wolverine acquires specialty outdoor brand Merrell from Vermont-based Sports Holding Corp., for $17 million in cash. The brand’s sales reach $25 million.
– Firm buys the global license for footwear from Harley-Davidson Motor Co.
– Wolverine’s brands are sold in 140 countries and generate $701 million in annual sales.
– Company purchases the European Caterpillar and Merrell businesses, creating its first owned wholesale businesses on the continent.
– Wolverine purchases Sebago, the handsewn dress casual and performance marine shoe label.
– Krueger is named president of the Heritage Brands Group.
– Firm wins Footwear News’ Company of the Year award as annual revenue reaches $991.9 million.
– Group sales top $1 billion for the first time.
– Company acquires the global license to design and market Patagonia Footwear.
– Wolverine acquires Colorado-based footwear brand Chaco and U.K.-based Cushe for undisclosed amounts.
– Cat Footwear scores a partnership with Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe to produce a signature series of workboots.
– Wolverine acquires the Performance & Lifestyle Group from Collective Brands Inc., adding Sperry Top-Sider, Saucony, Stride Rite and Keds to the existing brand family for $1.24 billion.
– Firm is again named Company of the Year by Footwear News.
– Keds inks high-profile partnership with Grammy-winning, multiplatinum singer-songwriter and style icon Taylor Swift.