Patagonia ends license deal with Wolverine

Patagonia Footwear will run through year’s end; 2015 styles nixed.
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Fall 2014 footwear orders will be the last for the foreseeable future from Patagonia Footwear after the contract between Patagonia and its licensed manufacturer Wolverine has come to an abrupt end.

Patagonia’s 8 year-old footwear line of outdoor performance shoes, with a focus on trail running and hiking in addition to mountain lifestyle sandals and boots, was produced by Wolverine, which also makes Chaco, Cushe, Merrell, Saucony and Sperry Top-Sider.

Why and what the future holds for footwear from Patagonia remains to be seen.

“I’m really not able to get into any of the specifics of the end of that contract,” Patagonia Director of Global PR told SNEWS and the O.R. Daily at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. “At this point, I really can just say that fall ’14 is going to be the final season for the footwear line manufactured and sold under the license with Wolverine. With regards to the future of footwear, at some point in time, we may revisit footwear, but we don’t have any plans in the works at this time.”

The choice came as a surprise — the 2015 line had been displayed at other trade shows. All footwear orders sold through the upcoming fall season will be fulfilled, officials said.

“It’s very upsetting,” said Jamie Barbor, sales director for Patagonia Footwear. “We’d built a nice line out there,” He cited a backlog of up to 20 percent as an indication that business was healthy and its market share was growing, and touted its recent Outside Magazine Gear of the Year award, won by the Rover mountain running shoe, as a mark of the quality of work the brand was achieving. Wolverine worked to carry through the Patagonia mission of using business to make a positive difference by linking with 177 local grassroots organizations through dealers to donate a total of $1 million to their causes, Barbor said. Plus, the brand embraced the ethos of creating the best products with the least harm with measures like being among the first using the recyclable/up-cycle-able Plus Foam in footwear. For this, their final Summer Market, he said, the goal is to finish the line on a positive note.

“You’ve got two great partners involved and obviously we want to respect both sides, of the business and deliver fall ’14,” agreed Sue Harvey Brown, marketing manager for Patagonia Footwear.

For Wolverine employees who have been working the Patagonia Footwear line, Barbor said, they’re working to find opportunities within the Wolverine organization.

--Elizabeth Miller

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