An Account of the New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc since 1900
New Balance Athletic Shoe Inc, commonly known as New Balance manufactures basketball, running, hiking, cross training and tennis footwear. They manufacture their footwear in a wide range of sizes and designs to satisfy both fashion and functionality. You will find most of their products around the globe, but unlike other companies they have centralized their production in the US. Recently, the company manufacturing facilities have spread widely and are no longer located in Maine and Massachusetts alone. Besides footwear, they manufacture a myriad of athletic apparel like the track suit I wear for my morning jogs.
Early 20th Century
Started by William. J. Riley, New Balance is one of the popular shoe companies in the US whose brand has spread throughout the world. The company was started in 1906 in Boston Massachusetts. Initially, they produced orthopedic shoes and arch supports and operated under the brand name The New Balance Arch Company. In most of the early 20th century, they focused on this narrow business line. Though they produced quality shoes, they were only known in Maine and Massachusetts until in 1930 when they decided to venture into producing baseball orthopedic footwear.
Despite, their narrow business line, New Balance ensured that you got value for your money. Venturing into the athletic arena with the baseball orthopedic shoe was a move that would see the company flourish in the shoe industry. In 1960, the company decided to venture more in the athletic industry by introducing Trackster, a ripple soled men running shoe which put New Balance on the map as a running brand. The shoe was unique, running from AA to EEEE in width. Those who were born then can remember this shoe which was common in high schools and colleges. By then, the company was known nationally.
Photo: New Balance Trackster
New Balance under the Leadership of James S. Davis from 1972
Davis bought New Balance Shoe from Paul Kidd in 1972. His interest was in sales and marketing though he had specialized in biology in the university. He bought the company at $100,000. During the first year, his focus was on establishing wider sales by employing sales representatives throughout the country. Davis was then set to increase the production and up the quality of the shoes they produced. In 1973 and 1974, the shoes attracted serious athletes, joggers and those doing it for leisure. In early 1976, New Balance shoes were featured in the Runner’s World magazine where they ranked the third best running shoe. The following year, they ranked the best running shoe in the world. The number of buyers surged my parents adding to the statistics.
Photo: Jim Davis, chairman of New Balance
Massive Growth in mid-1970’s
The transition from a locally known brand to an internationally popular shoe was very fast and Davis had to put up with marketing a popular brand. By 1976, the company had started leaping over $1 million in sales. Davis sustained the high demand for athletic shoes and expanded the manufacture in terms of shoe sizes and designs. Though most companies moved their production overseas, Davis did not make such a move and instead preferred keeping all the operations closer home where he could monitor the shoe quality.
In 1982, the company was making more than $60 million in sales per year. Though the company was fast expanding, it was no longer sharing in the riches. According to Davis, the company tried to chase big companies like Reebok and Nike and ended selling their products way below the wholesale price. The financial growth vanished and Davis was left questioning himself.
Davis was advised to move the company production overseas by his executive committee but he was reluctant. Instead, he used more money to better the production of shoes in the US in Maine and Massachusetts. In early 1990’s, the company’s sales had upped to more than $100 million. Davis further used $6 million to buy more equipment and to technologically advance the company. Annual sales shot to $474 million in 1996 and $1 billion in 2000.
New Balance from 2000 to date
Davis had propelled the company to what we know today. In 2001, the company established Aravon, a division that would specialize in orthopedic shoes. He also signed a number of licensing agreements for the company’s logo. He did not follow the trend of his competitors of signing sports stars or targeting young buyers. Instead, Davis concentrated on upping the quality of the brand. In 2003, the company was ranked the third best athletes shoe company in the world. In 2004, they acquired Lacrosse, an equipment manufacturer and became the Lacrosse league sponsors in the US. Today, the company competes with Reebok and Nike among other popular brands, and has set a goal to produce a sneaker entirely in America.