Port Washington-based Allen Edmonds Shoe Corp is one of the most iconic men’s fashion brands in the country.
Bankers, attorneys, accountants, Wall Street traders and other professionals have made Allen Edmonds shoes a regular part of their wardrobe for decades. The company’s dress shoes, which sell for between $250 and $600 on average, aren’t cheap.
While many companies have felt pressure to lower prices in order to maintain sales levels or capture market share during the economic downturn, Allen Edmonds has instead focused on its heritage, maintaining its connection with its core customers while developing inroads with a new generation of buyers.
Paul Grangaard, Allen Edmonds’ chief executive officer, joined the company in 2008. He worked previously in the financial services sector, most recently with Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison Inc., the private equity firm that bought Allen Edmonds
Soon after he started his new job, Grangaard noticed several of the company’s historic shoe models had been discontinued – lines that had been strong sellers through the company’s history.
“Men are replacement buyers, and when you take a shoe away from them, if you don’t necessarily drive them to the replacement, you may drive them to a competitor,” he said. “We brought the four styles back, and all of them were in the best seven selling styles for the year.”
Last year, the company launched a new line of shoes aimed at young professionals named AE by Allen Edmonds. While the new line sells at about $199, it does not represent a move toward low-cost shoes by the iconic brand, Grangaard said.
“We were already developing that shoe before the recession. It was an overdue recognition of how men dress at work because of the way fashion has changed,” he said. “Many years ago, a young guy with great expectations would get a pair of Allen Edmonds shoes with a great suit and head off to work. Today, that guy gets a pair of khakis and a golf shirt, and heads off to work.”
The AE brand has helped boost Allen Edmonds’ sales over the past year. The company’s same store sales in its own stores have risen by 25 percent, Grangaard said.
“Now we are selling some of our best and most expensive shoes to the same young people that we went after with our new business shoes,” he said. “We’ve been working overtime every week since December on the manufacturing side to keep up with the demand. The new age business shoes were great for us last year, but what is driving our growth is our classic-selling Allen Edmonds shoes.”