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Umi Finds New Home With Weyco Group

Weyco Group is moving into the kids' business.

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NEW YORK — Weyco Group Inc. is moving into the kids’ business.

The Milwaukee-based firm, which markets men’s footwear under the Florsheim, Nunn Bush and Stacy Adams brands, has acquired the Umi children’s label in a $1.8 million cash deal.

Mark Kohlenberg, who founded Grafton, Wis.-based Umi in 2004, will join Weyco as president of the brand, which is known for its colorful, European-inspired shoes. Umi’s existing design and product development teams also will continue under the transition, as well as key senior management personnel. A new Umi sales team is expected to be announced shortly by Weyco. All fall ’10 orders will be processed and shipped from Weyco’s Glendale, Wis., warehouse.

John Florsheim, president and COO of Weyco Group, said Umi represents a strong addition to the company’s portfolio, particularly as the firm looks to break into new categories outside the men’s business. “Mark has done a great job building the brand. It’s got a good following in the marketplace; it has a nice niche,” he said.

“We see it as an incremental business, a way to take [Weyco] into different channels and different categories,” Florsheim added.

The exec said that over time the company hopes to tap Kohlenberg’s expertise in taking its men’s brands into the kids’ market.

Kohlenberg, for his part, called the acquisition a “great moment for the Umi brand,” noting that being under Weyco’s wing will afford Umi the resources and capital to grow. “It provides the brand with an immense amount of support and scale that we didn’t have before,” he said. “And I’ll now have the luxury to focus on product development, wholesale sales and fostering retail relationships without having to worry about distribution centers, human resources and so much of what a typical small business owner finds distracting.”

Already, Kohlenberg has plans to revamp and relaunch the brand’s pre-walk program, UmiPram, in time for the fall ’11 season. In addition, he said he will take advantage of Weyco’s strong position overseas to move Umi into new foreign markets. “Weyco has a very large international presence. Our hope is that, over the next several seasons, Umi can tap into that.”