Wolverine World Wide has the shoes to quiet your barking dogs. The company makes Hush Puppies casual shoes and slippers, as well as boots, sandals, and related apparel and accessories. Its boot lines include Merrell (outdoor), Bates (military), HyTest, and Wolverine (industrial); footwear is made under the Cushe brand and private labels. Wolverine also boasts several licenses from Caterpillar ("CAT"), Harley-Davidson, and Patagonia to make branded footwear. It sells worldwide through department and specialty stores, independent distributors, Internet retailers, and more than 440 company-owned retail stores in North America and the UK. Wolverine also maintains more than 60 consumer-direct Internet sites.
Wolverine's footwear brands are sold in about 200 countries and territories. The US accounts for two-thirds of the company's sales, followed by Europe (nearly 20% of sales), and Canada (7% of sales).
Wolverine designs, manufactures, sources, markets, licenses, and distributes branded footwear, apparel, and accessories. The firm operates two primary business segments. The largest, accounting for about 85% of sales, is the Branded Wholesale Footwear, Apparel and Licensing segment. Following the purchase of the Performance + Lifestyle Group in late 2012, Wolverine divides this segment into four parts: the Outdoor Group (Merrell, Patagonia, and Chaco brands); the Heritage Group (Wolverine, Cats, Bates, Harley-Davidson, and HyTest); the Lifestyle Group (Hush Puppies, Sebago, Cushe, Soft Style); and the PLG (Sperry Top-Sider, Saucony, Stride Rite, and Keds). The company's consumer-direct segment, which accounts for about 15% of Wolverine's annual sales, includes the company's 440-plus retail stores in the US, Canada, and the Uk, and the online businesses, including the Wolverine Retail and PLG Retail groups.
Acquisitions have fueled Wolverine's recent growth. Indeed, in 2012 the footwear company's sales increased 16% versus 2011 to $1.64 billion. Net income declined 35% over the same period. The double-digit uptick in annual sales was helped by the purchase of the Performance + Lifestyle Group (PLG) from Collective Brands, which contributed to a 28% gain in domestic sales for the year. Sales also got a boost from increases volume sales of existing brands. 2012 marked the third consecutive year of strong annual sales comparisons for the company, following a decline in sales in 2009 due to the economic downturn.
The company attributed the 35% decline in net income to a non-recurring transactions and and integration costs related to the purchase of PLG.
While Wolverine maintains a portfolio of more than 15 brands, it regularly looks for add-on companies to extend its global reach and to expand into new niches. (The 2009 purchase of casual footwear maker Cushe gave Wolverine a UK presence among high-end retailers and boosted its Hush Puppies business in 20 other countries.)
Wolverine gives its brands -- and its bottom line -- a leg up worldwide through licensing and distribution agreements with third parties. Indeed, most of its footwear is now made by third parties in the Asia-Pacific region, Central and South America, Europe, and India. To this end, the company partnered with Forus SA in 2012 to form joint venture Lifestyle Brands of Colombia aimed at marketing the Wolverine portfolio in Colombia. A similar joint venture agreement with Tata International gives Wolverine a foot in the door in India. The footwear firm also licenses the Hush Puppies and Wolverine brand names. Wolverine has expanded its sporty Merrell name to be included on backpacks, handbags, luggage, and accessories. Its Bates Uniform Footwear Division contracts with the US Department of Defense and the militaries of several foreign countries to supply military footwear.
Mergers and Acquisitions
In a move that greatly expanded its collection of footwear brands and retail footprint, Wolverine in October 2012 acquired the wholesale and retail operations of the Sperry Top-Sider, Saucony, Stride Rite, and Keds brands by buying the Performance + Lifestyle Group (PLG) from Collective Brands for more than $1.2 billion. Collective Brands, which also owned the Payless ShoeSource chain of stores, was taken private and split up by Wolverine and a pair of private equity firms. With more than $1 billion in sales, 345 retail stores, and almost 40 million pairs shipped in its latest fiscal year, PLG is now Wolverine's largest operating group. (As part of the agreement, PLG retained its headquarters in Lexington, Massachusetts.) In 2010 Wolverine purchased Colorado-based footwear firm Chaco and winter boot maker ULU, folding both into its Outdoor Group.
Janus Capital Management owns more than 10% of Wolverine's shares. Investment firm BlackRock owns nearly 10%.