ROCKFORD, MI – After closing 104 stores in 2015, Wolverine Worldwide plans to shutter 100 in 2016 in response to a difficult global retail and consumer environment.
The Rockford footwear giant announced the closures this week while discussing fiscal 2015 results.
Sixty of the 2016 closures will come as leases run out on storefronts, Chief Financial Officer Michael Stornant said during a call with analysts to discuss fourth quarter and fiscal 2015 results.
Company leaders didn’t provide any details about which stores would close, or when.
But they did say their strategy, which mostly focused on dropping poorly-performing Stride Rite locations, is paying off.
The vast majority of the closures in 2014 and 2015 were Stride Rite stores, shrinking the chain to about 220 stores.
“Performance of our retail stores has improved significantly and we’re encouraged about the direction of the business today,” Chief Executive Officer Blake Krueger said during the Feb. 22 analyst call.
Wolverine’s reported 2015 annual revenues slipped 2.1 percent to $2.69 billion and profits dropped 8 percent to $123.2 million over 2014.
In 2015, Wolverine stopped producing two brands, Patagonia Footwear and Cushe.
It has focused on positioning its three biggest brands – Merrell, Sperry, and Saucony – as head-to-toe lifestyle brands. All three had a double-digit growth in online sales in the fourth quarter.
The company is investing in product creation and innovation, and recently rolled out a new Innovation and Design Center focused on the consumer, product design and marketing.
Insights gathered through this work will “play a critical role in influencing the future of the company, directly driving vital growth projects and new technology introductions and fundamentally changing the way we operate,” Krueger said.
A persistently strong U.S. dollar is blamed for the company’s higher product costs in most international markets and financial instability for some of its U.S. retailers and global customers.
“You’re seeing these kind of wild swings in currency,” Krueger said. “Most of the world, virtually all of the world, buys its footwear in the U.S. dollars and sells on local currency. So, you can imagine a little bit of a disruption that can happen when the U.S. dollar strengthens 20, 25, 30 percent over a period of only two years.”
The Rockford company has 15 brands and a global workforce of 6,000 employees. The publicly-traded company recently announced a 6-cent dividend that will be paid May 2 to investors of record on April 1.