Salt Lake City has become a distribution center for shoes made for the company that created Swiss Army Knives.
The shoes are made with tire treads and Neoprene the material used for wet suits and sport the Swiss Army Knife's trademark cross and shield emblem.
The Wenger Footwear shoes will be in stores in January, shipped from a distribution center on 900 West in Salt Lake. On Friday, they were on display at the Outdoor Retailers Summer Market at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
"Comfort is a major consideration," said Ron Page, chief executive officer of Established Brands International Corp., a San Francisco-based company that recently opened its distribution, sales and customer-service center in Salt Lake.
Established Brands obtained the license from Wenger SA, which created the Swiss Army Knife, to manufacture the shoes under the name Wenger Footwear.
"We spent nine years convincing them, and that's not an exaggeration, promising to maintain quality expected by consumers when they see the cross," Page said.
The shoes will retail for $95-$175. Established Brands expects to sell 1 million of the 31 different men's and women's styles of shoes over the next year, generating $20-$25 million.
Swiss Army Knives are sold in 195 countries, and the label is one of the most widely recognized in the world. The executives of Established Brands hope the shoes become popular, too.
About 20 people work from the Salt Lake distribution, sales and customer-service center. Travis Bott, director of business development for Established Brands, plans to hire 20-100 more people in the next 18 months to work in Salt Lake. Many of the jobs will be high-paying, he said.
Established Brands has developed two lines of shoes: the Alps line, which is for outdoor adventures; and the Chocolate line, which is a "lifestyle" line for everyday use. The shoes are designed in
Portland, Ore., and manufactured in China. The shoes will be sold in outdoor speciality stores, and Page expects the Chocolate line to be sold in department stores.
People are increasingly wearing outdoors-inspired shoes to the movies on Saturday afternoons, Page said. Ten years ago, students in a high school would wear tennis shoes, and now, "six out of 10 will be wearing an outdoor shoe," said Page, who was a vice president and board member of Deckers, which made Teva, Ugg and Simple brands, before co-founding Established Brands."Outdoor has been attributed to a lifestyle," he said. "I call it an SUV lifestyle. I live in Manhattan. I have an SUV."
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