Footwear maker Rocky buys Gates gloves

Rocky Shoes and Boots is getting into the glove business, signing a letter of intent to purchase certain assets of Gates-Mills, including intellectual properties, finished goods and raw materials, and the registered name, Gates.
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Rocky Shoes and Boots is getting into the glove business, signing a letter of intent to purchase certain assets of Gates-Mills, including intellectual properties, finished goods and raw materials, and the registered name, Gates. The price was not disclosed.

The new venture isn't as far a stretch for the footwear maker as some may think, according to Rocky CEO Mike Brooks, who told SNEWS that Rocky revamped its business plan two years ago to include apparel, hats, bags and gloves. "We put in that plan that we needed to be a head-to-toe company, not just a footwear company," he said.

Gates-Mills, which primarily marketed its products under the trademark Gates, had four glove divisions: hunting, specialty, work and dress. Brooks said that Rocky sees profitable potential with all except the dress category, which the company plans to discontinue.

The purchase fits in well with Rocky's plan to expand deeper into apparel and other softgood accessories. Less than a month ago, Rocky hired John Maser as senior vice president to head up the expanding apparel division and now the new Gates acquisition.

"We've had a small fragment of the hunting apparel business, and we want to grow that -- headwear, gloves, socks and accessories -- that makes the most sense. Then we're also testing work apparel, then lastly, we'd like to go forward with sport casual apparel -- shirts, shorts, slacks. So we're moving away from just being a boot company to a branded outerwear and footwear company," Brooks said.

Rocky only plans to retain four key associates from Gates-Mills; the remaining staff from the 103-year-old company -- about 45 people -- will be laid off, including personnel in product development, accounting, creative and warehousing. Gates will be based in Rocky's Nelsonville, Ohio, headquarters.

The deal is expected to close by April 15.

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