Allen Edmonds Bought by Caleres

Allen Edmonds, one of the most popular and most beloved of the brands discussed on Styleforum, has just been purchased by Caleres for $255 million. Caleres, the parent company of Famous Footwear, also owns several handfuls of not-quite-fantastic women’s footwear brands such as Vince, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Franco Sarto. This puts Allen Edmonds in an interesting place in the Caleres portfolio – or rather, at the top of it, from a very Styleforum-y perspective. Allen Edmonds may have retail storefronts  at numerous malls across the country, but it is an undeniably higher-quality product than those with which it now shares a room.

Of course, you’re probably wondering what this means for your beloved shoe company, and whether you ought to be panicking. Well, maybe not quite yet. Paul Grangaard, the well-regarded CEO of Allen Edmonds, will stay on in the same role, which indicates that Caleres is less interested in re-structuring Allen Edmonds than on capitalizing on the brand’s solid growth and Grangaard’s leadership. Additionally, their portfolio skews heavily towards womenswear, meaning that Allen Edmonds is something of a feather in the cap.

Here’s the one potential source of worry – the statement from Diane Sullivan, president and CEO, reads as follows:

“The addition of Allen Edmonds to the Caleres brand portfolio allows us to rapidly increase our exposure in men’s footwear, solidifying a new revenue stream to drive overall growth…Over the next several months we will work together to identify ways to benefit from each other, including brand and product development, materials sourcing and design capabilities, to name a few.”

For a paranoid fashion hobbyist such as myself, “materials sourcing” sounds a bit like trying to use Caleres’ larger network of producers to lower one element of production costs. And of course, “growth” is a dubious buzzword for the Styleforum member, since we generally don’t want our favorite brands to grow – and modern perceptions of American business have trained us not to trust anything that sounds like, well, business. However, in some cases the concerns have been founded – many well-regarded brands have lost some of their luster following an acquisition, and many hobbyists expect the worst when a beloved brand changes hands.

Mr. Grangaard took to the Ask Andy About Clothes forum to allay some of the concerns shared there. A selection of his response is below:

“Our strategies will stay the same but grow, and the team is all staying in place. Caleres bought us because of what we could do with them, not what they could do to us…So the changes you’ll see will be those of intensifying who we are and what we do in good ways — more marketing and customer development because of their longer term time horizon.

Manufacturing in Port Washington is our core commitment. It’s not going away. Period. Count on that one. The “materials sourcing assistance” they can give us is in componentry. They know European tanneries, sole makers and last manufacturers that we don’t really know but who could be helpful.” (Full response here)

Despite Caleres’ retail success, the brands sharing the stable with Allen Edmonds are not brands that I would associate inspiration or production quality, which is, I think, a fair source of concern. Mr. Grangaard’s qualified statement that access to material providers could be helpful is, well…pretty qualified.  However, Allen Edmonds has traded hands several times over the last decade, and has remained a go-to source in its particular corner of the market while seeing growth in reach and name recognition.

Based on the last decade of progress, I’ll choose to assume that Allen Edmonds’ very successful leadership will continue to find success, and that five years from now I’ll still be recommending Allen Edmonds to friends searching for affordable, quality footwear.

For further reading, check out this 2013 Styleforum interview with Mr. Grangaard