COOs on Coronavirus: Weyco Group’s John Florsheim Calls on the Industry to Work Together

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

As the coronavirus crisis continues to escalate, Weyco Group Inc. is ramping up support of its employees and retail partners, according to COO John Florsheim. The executive encouraged other companies to follow suit.

“Every company has bills to pay and inventory that’s just sitting there,” said Florsheim. “Let’s work with each other to extend where necessary and move orders into the future. Wherever possible, keep people employed. Half of this country lives paycheck to paycheck. If your viability requires furloughs or layoffs, make sure to provide support through severance and other measures until employees can receive government assistance.”

The Glendale, Wisc.-based company produces footwear under the Florsheim, Nunn Bush, Stacy Adams, Bogs and Rafters brands globally. It also operates Florsheim stores in the U.S. and abroad, and an e-commerce business in the states.

Here, Florsheim discusses the company’s strategy for working with its retail base, and the importance of e-commerce moving forward.

How are you supporting your employees during this event?

John Florsheim: “We’re committing to keep all employees on the payroll with benefits for the foreseeable future. We want to provide as much economic security as possible for all our employees.”

What measures are you taking to keep your business up and running?

JF: “We’re making sure we’re constantly communicating with our employees so they feel supported. We’re also reaching out to our accounts to work together to navigate the near term. Almost everyone’s working from home, but we’re keeping projects moving — continuing to build future lines and adjust inventory levels on future purchases.”

How are you working with independent retail partners who may be among the most vulnerable?   

JF: “We’re reaching out letting them know we’ll work with them on any reasonable request for extended terms, moving orders out and accepting cancellations where appropriate.”

Is your warehouse open and shipping?

JF: “As per the Wisconsin mandate, we scaled back to a minimum number of employees to take care of work that’s time-sensitive, such as bringing in containers that continue to arrive from overseas. We’re also doing a limited shift to ship out e-commerce orders.”

What is your e-commerce approach during the situation?

JF: “Prior to the crisis, we invested heavily both in our own e-commerce as well as in our ability to support our retail partners via drop-shipping. With the current situation, we expect an acceleration in this channel, which we see as critical to our business model.”

Where do you envision the industry in six months from now?

JF: “It’s hard to say. Unfortunately, this may be a final blow for weak brick-and-mortar retailers that don’t have the balance sheet to navigate the disruption. It’s extremely likely that this crisis will further accelerate the shift to e-commerce across many categories. We‘re a resilient, innovative country and my hope is we will look back and be proud of the way we took care of our people and moved forward as an economy.”

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