Glen Shoe Back In Branded Business With Switch

Remember the jazz oxford? So do the Muskat brothers of Glen Shoe, who popularized the look back in 1977. According to Steve Muskat, vice president in charge of product and sales, the firm is committed to re-establishing itself in the in-stock branded business after a five-year hiatus.

“There’s an opening today for what Glen has always been,” said Muskat, referring to the company’s new Switch line of interchangeable footwear. The package, which hit Bloomingdale’s 59th street flagship store just before Thanksgiving, has averaged sales of about 100 pairs a day. The collection, which includes men’s, women’s and children’s styles, is being sold in the second-floor junior shoe department.

“We’re back in the stock business, going door to door selling shoes,” explained Muskat. The firm, formed in 1969, was originally a make-up house selling men’s dress shoes to such companies as Florsheim, Nunn Bush and Freeman. In 1972 Glen introduced its first branded line called The Nature Shoe, a series of negative heel footwear for men and women inspired by the Earth Shoe.

Until 1972, Glen was in the branded business,” said Muskat, but the firm made a corporate decision to switch over to unbranded because “it was becoming a nightmare to service independents.” The firm had credit problems with smaller retailers as larger chains started taking over the boutique business of the ’60s and ’70s, said Muskat. Glen became a volume make-up house, dealing with chain stores and wholesalers that were in both the fashion and basic footwear business.

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Fun, Feeling of the ’60s

Along with Steve, his brothers Mike, president, in charge of product development and line building and Rick, vice president, handling financial and administrative matters, have turned Glen around by re-introducing their Nature Shoe under the added name, Evolution, Today, it’s a line of fashionable comfort shoes geared toward the young and contemporary markets.

Glen has also added a new collection of young, forward looks for men and women, under the Bop label. “It’s all the fun and feeling of the ’60s,” said Muskat, who says the era is having a strong impact on today’s social scene. “The music’s coming back and the social feeling is returning.” Muskat says that fashion-wise the clothes of the ’60s are coming back, but with the flair of the ’80s.” To fit into this spirit of dressing, the Bop line features casuals that play up bottom interest in platform EVA soles to ribbed unit designs. Uppers are done in suede, leather, and fabrics with details like metal toe tips and elastic.

“We feel that with the ideas we’ve had lately, the best way to get them into the marketplace is to do things ourselves,” explained Muskat. “With the economic climate the way it is today, straight logic is not to take that direction. But the problem in the volume make-up business is, after we introduce something, we’re subject to losing a successful program to our clients’ own import or wholesale divisions. The growth potential is limited in that market.”

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Ad Drives Planned

Today, Glen’s business is divided evenly between moderately priced branded and unbranded footwear. About 25 percent of the firm’s overall business is in women’s. Added to the list of brands Glen presently offers is Gramercy Park, a series of dress shoes for men introduced.

Muskat is the most enthusiastic about the firm’s Switch program. Glen has two of its own salespeople working in Bloomingdale’s and a mine is on hand three days a week to demonstrate how uppers zip on and off the bottoms. The switch is also being sold in about 15 Nordstrom stores and will be available in additional stores in the spring. The company is planning an advertising campaign in major magazines as well as local co-op ads.

Muskat took the Switch shoes straight to the consumer by participating in a recent Fad Fair, a gimmick, and invention show in New York open to the public and press. “The show is for everyone who thinks they might have the next per rock,” said Muskat, who wanted to get consumer reaction to the new product. Is Switch merely another gimmick? According to Muskat. “I think it’s long term, although it will have its peak. It will level out to become a niche unto itself, to be a specialized type of shoe.

“We want to romance all the packages we have,” said Muskat. We want to give names to, and promote all the programs we have.”

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Article by John J. Christian

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