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CEOs on Coronavirus: Rocky Brands’ Jason Brooks on the Critical Role of Work & Duty Shoes

In a new series, top leaders from across the footwear industry discuss the deep impact of the coronavirus and the challenging road ahead.

Rocky Brands has 1.3 million pairs of work, duty and outdoor footwear in its 200,000-square-foot warehouse in Logan, Ohio — and CEO Jason Brooks is determined to get the product to millions of first responders, health-care workers, military personnel and utility workers on the front lines of the coronavirus fight.

The company has also tapped its Chinese factories to produce masks to deliver to local hospitals.

“We understand and appreciate Gov. DeWine’s efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve and urge our fellow Ohioans to follow the order and take precautions for themselves and others around them,” said  Brooks. “However, we agree with Ohio’s approach to permit distribution centers to continue to operate. This is especially important  at this time for our distribution center to operate as our footwear products are utilized by our country’s critical infrastructure businesses, which need to be maintained during this crisis.”

While footwear under its Georgia, Rocky, Durango and Lehigh brands continues to flow out of its distribution facility, its manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are under government orders not to operate for 14 days, beginning on March 23. These plants produce approximately half of the company’s products, with the remainder produced by contract manufacturers in other countries, primarily in China, where manufacturing resumed at the end of February.

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To help steer the company through the coronavirus, the company elected to draw down $20 million from its credit facility to strengthen its cash position and fund the business for the first half of the year. After this move, Rocky Brands expects to have about $40 million remaining in the facility.

Here, Brooks talks about the logistics of delivering goods and supporting the coronavirus fight with mask donations.

How is the company’s e-commerce business facilitating getting footwear to those who need it such as law enforcement? 

Jason Brooks: “Our Lehigh business is positioned to serve essential and critical businesses in this situation. Our completely digital solution enables us to provide footwear to health-care workers, first responders and workers in the food and beverage industry, without travel to retail stores or congregating at shoe trucks.”

How is Rocky working with local officials to distribute footwear if stores are not open to sell shoes?

JB: “Our 200,000-square foot distribution center, based on review of the order, has been deemed an essential infrastructure business operation. The distribution center currently has approximately 1.3 million pairs of footwear in inventory.”

FN: Will Rocky be making any donations of money or supplies to those impacted?

JB: “Rocky has been active in giving back to the community both through corporate donations and through our designated nonprofit, the Rocky Community Improvement fund (RCIF). Our efforts continue to evolve as circumstances are changing daily. We are currently providing food to the local community school kids. We are in the process of having masks sent from our Chinese operations to be donated to local hospitals. We have also donated to local utility companies to prevent the shut off of essential electric and water supply to those in need in our community.”

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