There's no business like the retail and wholesale shoe business for Brown Shoe Company. Brown Shoe operates about 1,100 value-priced family footwear stores under the Famous Footwear banner in the US and Guam, more than 195 Naturalizer stores in the US and Canada, and a growing number of shoe stores in China. The company also sells shoes online and licenses Dr. Scholl's and Disney brand footwear. The company distributes footwear worldwide through more than 2,000 retailers, including independent, chain (DSW), department stores (Sears), catalogs, and online retailers. Brown Shoe is opening new stores, closing underperforming ones, and updating styles to appeal to younger bipeds.
Brown Shoe Co's. wholesale business supplies many of the major retailers in the US and Canada, as well as some 60 other countries. Important wholesale customers include TJX Corp., Ross Stores, Macy's, Wal-Mart, and Zappos.com. In fiscal 2012 (ends January) the wholesale business sold approximately 64 million pairs of shoes (down from 75 million pairs in 2007), accounting for about a third of Brown Shoe's total sales. The company owns and operates Shoes.com, a pure-play Internet company. Its other online businesses, including FamousFootwear.com and Naturalizer.com, are tied to its retail stores. In addition to some 195 Naturalizer stores, Brown Footwear's Specialty Retail segment includes the Dr. Scholl's shoes and Sam Edelman chains. It bought the Sam & Libby brand back from Jones Group in 2012. (In 2012 the company closed the last of its F.X. LaSalle stores in Montreal and Brown Shoe Closet stores.)
While Brown Shoe rings up nearly 90% of its sales in the US, its retail reach extends as far as China where its majority-owned subsidiary, B&H Footwear Limited, operates about two dozen shoe stores in major cities. China is the source for 98% of Brown Shoe's footwear.
Brown Shoe's fiscal 2012 (ends January) net sales increased by about 3% vs. the prior year, while net income fell by 34% over the same period. Wholesale sales climbed more than 15% as a result of the acquisition of American Sporting Goods early in the year, while sales at both the FamousFootwear and Specialty Retail segments decreased, due in part to lower stores counts. The wholesale business also benefitted from the continuing recovery of the department store sector after a prolonged slump and several high profile bankruptcies. Same-stores sales at FamousFootwear stores declined by 1.2%, while Naturalizer stores posted a same-store sales gain of nearly 2%. The company cited a significant decline in sales of toning footwear, and costs related restructuring and the integration of a recent acquisition for the drop off in profits in fiscal 2012.
To attract younger shoppers, Brown Shoe has invested in its own portfolio of profitable businesses that provide youth-inspired items. In 2010 it acquired the 50% stake in Edelman Shoe it didn't already own for nearly $40 million. The upscale, hip footwear, which includes sandals, sneakers, and high-heel clogs, are sold in Nordstrom and Macy's stores. As part of the agreement, Sam Edelman and Libby Edelman retained their respective roles as president of the Sam Edelman division and head of marketing. Brown Shoe followed the Edelman deal by acquiring athletic footwear manufacturer American Sporting Goods (ASG) for $145 million in cash in 2011. ASG makes shoes under the AND1, Avia, and Ryka brands, adding performance-focused designs to Brown Shoe's portfolio of comfy fitness footwear. (In 2011 Brown Shoe sold its men's basketball and lifestyle shoe brand AND1 to brand-management firm Galaxy International for $55 million.) The ASG deal positioned Brown Shoe to better serve a growing base of shoppers who are in the market for affordably-priced athletic shoes. China is a growth market for Brown Shoe. B&H Footwear plans to open a dozen stores in 2012, bringing its total in China to about 35 locations. Also, through a joint venture with China's Hongguo International Holdings, Brown Shoe operates some 70 stores there and plans to open about 20 more in 2012. – less