MILWAUKEE – When he's on the job, Tim Sheehy sees a lot of Allen Edmonds shoes.
Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, said Allen Edmonds shoes — crafted in Port Washington, Wis., and worn by executives, celebrities and even regular guys who are willing to pay $300 or so a pair — are the gold standard for men's footwear in the business community. Sheehy himself has been wearing them for more than 30 years.
"They have an international reputation for their shoes, but here at home, there is a sense of pride in walking in them because they're made here," Sheehy said.
But some are starting to wonder what might happen to the widely recognized, made-in-America Allen Edmonds brand if the company is sold.
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corp. CEO Paul Grangaard confirmed last week that the company, which is owned by the Minneapolis private equity firm Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison, is listening to inquiries from potential buyers. The Wall Street Journal reported that Men's Wearhouse Inc. is interested in acquiring Allen Edmonds.
To some retail analysts and marketing professionals, the prospect of Allen Edmonds becoming part of Men's Wearhouse just doesn't seem right.
"I'm sure from the perspective of Men's Wearhouse, they're eager to get a big well-known brand like Allen Edmonds," said Dick Seesel, owner of Retailing in Focus in Mequon, Wis. "I'm just not sure how compatible it is."
Allen Edmonds' styling is more traditional than the apparel sold at Fremont, Calif.-based Men's Wearhouse, and the price points of the two companies are different, he said.
"Men's Wearhouse is really a mass-appeal menswear store," Seesel said. "I'm not exactly sure how a limited-distribution, expensive brand like Allen Edmonds fits into that brand profile."
Former Marquette University marketing professor Dennis Garrett also said Allen Edmonds and Men's Wearhouse don't appear to be a good match.
"There is the risk that if Allen Edmonds did get bought by a company that's perceived by consumers as being at a lower position-point in the marketplace, that really could diminish and cheapen Allen Edmonds' position in the marketplace," Garrett said.
Allen Edmonds' reputation revolves around making high-quality shoes in the United States for men who can afford them. The company says Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush all wore the Allen Edmond's Park Avenue-style shoe at their inaugurations.