New Balance Athletic Shoe runs on its everyman (and everywoman) appeal. Unlike its rivals, the footwear firm shuns celebrity endorsers. By spotlighting lesser-known athletes, New Balance claims to emphasize substance over style. The approach attracts Boomer jock clients who are less fickle than the teens chased by its rivals. Besides making and selling men's and women's shoes for running, cross training, basketball, tennis, hiking, and golf, it offers fitness apparel and kids' shoes and owns leather boot and shoe maker Dunham. It sells its footwear in its own stores and those of specialty retailers. Founded in 1906 as New Balance Arch Company to make arch supports, it's known for its selection of shoe widths.
Toning shoes, which promise to burn calories and tone muscles as you walk, are the latest craze to hit athletic footwear. While the estimated $1.5 billion market is dominated by Skechers and Reebok, New Balance launched its own line of True Balance toning shoes for men and women in 2010. The company is promoting them with a multimillion-dollar ad campaign. The toning shoes fall under New Balance's "wellness" line, which also includes yoga apparel and accessories. While the jury is still out on whether toning shoes deliver on their promises, they are helping to drive sales in the otherwise sleepy athletic footwear market. Indeed, in early 2011 New Balancewas hit with a lawsuit alleging that it deceived customers by claiming its toning shoes created more sculpted legs than ordinary walking sneakers. Several other major companies are facing similar lawsuits over toning shoes as well.
In addition to the company's namesake and Dunham brands, New Balance's products portfolio includes PF Flyers footwear, Aravon shoes for comfort performance, Warrior hockey wear, and Brine, a leader in soccer, field hockey, volleyball, and lacrosse. New Balance also makes apparel and accessories through licensing deals with the likes of J. Crew, Moretz Sports, Eyewear Designs, Fitness Quest, and Hickory Brands.
New Balance sells its products in more than 120 countries. Outside North America, the company operates in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden, and the UK. It owns a handful of manufacturing facilities in the US (in Maine and Massachusetts) and the UK. New Balance boasts another plant -- in California -- that is run by foreign suppliers to make footwear exclusively. It distributes its products from Massachusetts and California.
While the company does not enlist the help of high-profile celebrities and athletes to peddle its products, New Balance regularly sponsors races, teams, youth sports, and track and field events. Such events include The Elite Racing Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series and the Girls on the Run training program, among others.
New Balance is run by chairman Jim Davis, who bought the company on the day of the 1972 Boston Marathon. To spur growth for the firm, Davis in 2007 hired an executive with experience at Procter & Gamble, Gillette, and Tyson Foods. Robert DeMartini brought with him some 20 years in sales, marketing, operations, and other areas. New Balance also hired him to bring in younger, more progressive management. As companies, such as Fila USA, are being bought out, New Balance and its rivals are jockeying for second-tier positions, under goliaths NIKE and adidas (which now owns Reebok). – less