After 25 years as U.S. distributor for Israeli comfort brand Naot, Yaleet Inc., of Melville, N.Y., has acquired the company.
According to Yaleet president Steve Lax, he and wife, Susan Lax, are now sole owners of the company, whose footwear is produced in a factory on Kibbutz Naot Mordechai in the Upper Galilee.
“We put ourselves in debt and took on the challenge,” said Lax, who is committed to continuing production in Israel and ensuring the jobs of more than 700 employees there and a staff of more than 80 in the states.
To help with the transition, Mark Diehl, formerly SVP of sales for Dansko, has been named VP of sales. While Diehl will concentrate on the U.S. side of the business, Lax will focus on international.
According to Danny Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes, New York, who’s been carrying the line for more than two decades, the move will likely stabilize the company. “They’ll be more as well as better energy,” he said.
In addition to Naot, Yaleet acquired two other brands under its umbrella. They include Dafna, a collection of rain boots, slippers and military boots, produced on Kibbutz Dafna, and a German-based factory that currently manufactures shoes under the Theresia name. According to Lax, he plans to cease production of Theresia by year’s end and introduce a new product assortment from the factory in 2015. Combined, the two account for 10 percent of sales.
Today, the U.S. remains Naot’s biggest market, making up nearly 60 percent of worldwide business. In addition to Israel, which boasts a string of 60 stores, Naot is distributed in countries including Singapore, Germany, England, Canada and Australia, among others.
Despite a tough spring ’14, Lax said U.S. business continues to be strong. Spring ’15 bookings are already 20 percent ahead of the year prior.
In order to further spark sales, the brand has retained a public relations firm to help spread the word. “We’re poised to do some big things,” said Lax. “By bringing [everything] under one roof, we’re ready to go to the next level.”