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FJ Classics Update from Jim Connor

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Last week we had to make one of the toughest decisions in FootJoy's 152-year history; the decision to close our Classics manufacturing facility in Brockton, MA. As a result of the plant's closure, the company will eliminate 103 manufacturing and support positions over the coming weeks. We informed our trade partners last week and have been listening to the trade, consumer and industry feedback ever since. I hope that the following information will help you better understand why we were forced to make the decision, as well as our plans for the FootJoy brand going forward.

To understand how we got to this point, one must look back. As the FootJoy brand grew in the rapidly expanding golf footwear category during the '60's,'70's and early '80's, the factory and company prospered as well. Even as late as 1985, the Brockton plant was turning out nearly 400,000 pairs of leather soled, welted shoes and employed over 260 workers. It supplied a substantial portion of FootJoy’s worldwide sales. In the late '80's and early 1990's, new construction techniques were perfected in Asia that produced lightweight, flexible, and most importantly, highly waterproof golf footwear---- and the market rapidly moved in this direction. Major competitors launched similar new categories in golf footwear and FootJoy was in a struggle for supremacy in this new competitive realm. The shoes produced in this factory were, by their very construction and use of materials, at a considerable disadvantage in weight, water resistance, and cost. We began what became a twenty-year struggle to maintain and then slow the demise of this unique, but fading product called FootJoy Classics.

We tried just about everything:

1. We heavily subsidized the cost of the Brockton products to the trade and consumer.
2. We attempted new lightweight soles and waterproof techniques.
3. We offered an abundance of styles and colors and kept heavy inventories in attempt to keep the factory busy.
4. In 2004, we even invested over $1 million in capital equipment/refurbishing in a last ditch effort to make the factory more efficient with smaller volumes.

Unfortunately, none of these efforts and investments could slow the declining demand for this old method of shoe making---- our production volumes would have dropped well below 50,000 pair this year, making it impossible to support even the 100 workers that we had left. I made this decision. I have been with FootJoy since 1987 and have led it since 1990. I know most of the workers who will lose their jobs over the next six weeks and know how difficult their futures will be in this economy. We do not take this decision lightly ---- it is the most difficult a manager can make, and it has taken us almost twenty years to arrive at this point of no return.  We did all we could to save this craft shop (which is a much better definition of the facility than a "factory"). These men and women were true crafts people that took great pride in every pair of Classics they made. FootJoy is concluding, painfully, an era of shoe production that does not have sustainable demand in today's market.

Rest assured, we are in no way sacrificing our position as the #1 Shoe in Golf, nor are we abandoning the premium performance footwear segment or the highly stylized patterns and colors that FootJoy Classics have come to represent..Our product development team has been working diligently for the past few years with the understanding that this day may come and we must be prepared. As you read this, Tour players around the world are being fit into our new Flagship product. It will provide features and benefits that embody "The best of FJ":

1. Finely tailored upper designs that include traditional and contemporary patterns
2. The most premium performance materials
3. Fashionable calfskin leather detailing
4. Performance-infused spiked and spikeless outsoles
5. Customization that allows for a seemingly endless amount of design and size options.

The FootJoy golf footwear business will continue to lead the industry in almost every market around the world; at every price point and construction; and serve every golfer, regardless of skill or style preference. It’s in our DNA. While the closing of our Brockton factory after fifty years of operation is a painful closing of a long and important chapter in our 150 year history, we are compelled to move on. The FootJoy brand was founded on the principle of being the best product with unsurpassed quality and performance and its sole purpose is to enhance enjoyment of the game. This hasn’t been compromised or altered now, nor will it be in the future. It is who we are.

Jim Connor President - FootJoy


  • This is really sad to read about.

    I feel bad for the staff and hope some of them are able to be utilized in other departments.

    Classic's are the shoe ALL other Co.'s were measured against, and no one EVER came close to their quality, comfort and style.

  • Dear Mr. Connor,

        After reading your comments, I'm sure this was a gut wrenching decision.  I can really tell that you value the employees and their craftsmanship.  I know that I have enjoyed wearing the Classics Dry Premiere and the Classics Tour line for the last 15 years.  I currently have 6 pairs of these shoes and all are well cared for and in excellent shape.  Four of the pairs were purchased in the past year and a half.  I am by no means a businessman (34 years in public education).  However, I do wish you would rethink your position and somehow shift the manufacturing of these fine shoes to another facility.  You could project sales based on the past 5 years or so and still find some way to make a profit, even if you manufactured these shoes on a smaller scale.  You know that you can still sell them.  Thank you for your time.

  • Jim,

    After hearing this, I immediatly went to

    purchase some Footjoy Classics.

    Too bad, a little longer notice before closure

    would have let those of us who cannot go

    to the course without these fine shoes get

    stocked up.

  • When I heard from my best friend who still works at the Brockton plant that Footjoy was closing, it was a sad day indeed.  I too worked at the Brockton plant.  You will not find a better golf shoe than the classic.  It really is a shame that Footjoy couldn't find a way to keep making their golf shoes in Brockton.  God bless and good luck to all my friends who still work there and to all the employees there.

  • Mr. Connor,

    I applaud you for coming on here and interacting with these loyal, crusading, Footjoy loyalists.  Not many executives these days are "down in the trenches."  Despite the impact on the plant and it's employees, I hope they can serve the company in another role, or help Acushnet in general.

    Of course we are disappointed that American jobs are lost here, but it still is an American company.

    I've tried other brands here and there.

    Nobody makes 'em like Footjoy.

  • Excuse me,Mr.Crysler-you may think we can be of service to Acushnet Company,but that is not the case.We who crafted the shoes that some are loyal to and "crusading"about are DONE,OUT OF WORK. Because most of us  have worked many,many years at FootJoy (in Brockton,not China)we have no experience in other things that may help to find employment.Most of us are also too old to compete with a 25 year old for work.It is easy for you to say "despite the impact on the plant and its' employees"-because you are not one of us-the craftspeople and  our managers.Also the city of Brockton is very disappointed-as you may or may not know Brockton,Massachusetts was "Shoe City" with 39 shoe factories employing over 13,000 people in the 1900's.That is not counting  the companies that were in support roles to shoe making and their employees.FootJoy on Field Street in Brockton is the last to close.A once proud industry is no more. Also,I can tell you with certainty I am sick and tired of American jobs being lost to cheap labor overseas.FootJoy shoes will now all  come from China(the cheaper ones already do) and eventually maybe everything produced for Acushnet Company will be. So your comment "still an American Company" is misleading and not entirely true. One last thing-and it is something that has been on my mind since I first read this blog.Jim Connors-yeah he is here on the blog,BUT if this closing was his decision WHY didn't he make the trip up route 24 and come into our facility and tell us?? Why did he leave it someone else ?Was that dirty job was delegated so he wouldn't have to face us? Mr. Crysler, your post led to a boiling over of feelings I was trying to suppress.I wish you would  have thought about the effects your words might have on the employess who are jobless and feeling pretty rotten right now and struggling with emotions.We at the Brockton plant are not just coworkers-we are family! And we HURT-every few days more of us leave.We are losing a little piece of themselves every time someone has to say goodbye.Soon my deparment-the last one to go,will be saying goodbye to each other.It will be one of the hardest things I have to do in my life. You could NEVER be as disappointed as we are that OUR  USA jobs are lost.

  • Jim,

    I wanted to say I appreciate you heartfelt perspective on the demise of the FootJoy Classic Shoe.

    I am a 42 year old Boston native, you probably know the weather here takes a toll on shoes- especially leather welted shoes.  This said, I am proud to say that I am a bit of a shoe junkie- and leather welted shoes are by far my favorite.

    I own 14 pair of cordovan shell Alden shoes.  Alden's, simply put the best shoes made.  I have always considered the FootJoy Classic the second best shoe made- yes, better than Allen Edmonds. Frankly, I would buy these shoes even if they were made in China, but the fact that they are made in Massachusetts makes them more special (Allen Edmonds are made in Wisconsin- maybe that is why they are a close third :).

    While I am disappointed that you have decided to discontinue the Brand- and that is what the Classics are- a Brand- I understand that you have a responsibility to your shareholders as well.  You will be happy to hear, to get over my disappointment I went shoe shopping- I bought 4 pair last week to bring my total up to 10- crazy I know, but God willing I have a lot of golf left in me and I don't want to be without the best shoe in golf!

    Jim, I remain a customer because of the quality of the "Classics".  I had a situation last year where I hit a shot into some thorny brush (believe it or not) and a pair of my shoes were damaged.  I wrote and called your customer service to see if I could get them repaired (under warrantee or not) and I must say I was disappointed with your companies ability to resolve a customers issue.  The only solution your people gave me was to take my shoes to a cobbler- I told the customer service person that "I just became a Nike customer" to create some urgency.  Her response, "I am sorry to hear that, good luck".  Good news for you that the product outweighed the service your company provides so I did not keep my word and kept buying FootJoy, but a word to the wise (I believe you are that) stay on top of the service you provide your customer as the next move you make might be shutting down more than just a legendary part of your business!

    Best of luck and thanks for letting me share my story.

    Regards,

    Bob Forman

  • As a PGA Golf Professional, I believe Footjoy as made a terrible decision to close out the Classic Line.  That shoe made FootJoy.  Your competition are all jumping for joy.  By closing out that line you have nothing to say "Footjoy is Different".  Your Classic shoe was the most confortable shoe on the market. You can't replace leather.  When FootJoy came out with the Classic Premier, a all leather shoe that was water proof, I thought you hit a home run.  You never had any advertising on TV, i.e. PGA Tour about the shoes.  What happened to the marketing department.  They dropped the ball.  I know times have gotten tough, but golfers that wore your Classic golf and dress shoe will not wear any other kind of shoe. I hope I am wrong but I don't think so. It's going to be hard to replace the Classic, I have tried but nothing can compare to feel and comfort.  I could take the shoes out of the box, lace them up and walk to the first tee, not one blister.

  • I have been wearing Classics for the past 10 years since they were the only shoes made in a 15EEE.  Will you provide wider shoes in your other styles someday?

  • Reading this article is like reading an obit for a life long friend.  I am only 35, but FJ Classics have been a part of my life since I was able to fit into my first pair (age 10).  I have owned many pair over the years and currently have 3 pair in rotation.  They are the ONLY shoes I wear and do not know what I am going to do without them.  Please, please reconsider.  The FJ Classic was the last golf shoe made with the quality and makemanship of a fine dress shoe.  There will never be another classic.

    It is unfortunate that the world has come to this.  Quality and Makemenship is being sacrificed due to the massive amounts of imported goods with cheaper prices! We as a country have ourselves to blame.

  • $15,000 on golf shoes?

  • Mr. Connor,

        I had the good fortune to meet you a few years back and have seen the Brockton plant with my own eyes, both of which I must admit were amazing in their respective humility. I have ordered multiple pairs of Classics (Original, Dry Premiere, and Dress) in past years and luckily, Edwin Watts Golf has a great selection of them still in stock in my 12D size.  I wanted to take a moment to write this note to thank those who put their time and labor into both the production and management of the Classics line. While it is the passing of an era, it has been memorable and the effects have had an indelible impact upon my own journey through the game, and no doubt that of many others.  All this to say.... thank you.

        I have two questions for you:

    1.) I am curious whether or not I will be able to obtain soles for these shoes as I have 9 pairs of classics dry premiers, 6 pairs of classics, and 4 pair of classics dress that I plan on keeping until I no longer have feet to fit them over.  In the past I have always sent them to you to be resoled when need be for the respectable price of $120 but with this plant closing I am wondering how this may change.  Please let me (and the collective "US") know.

  • Hi Mathew,

    Thank you for your comment, kind words and loyalty to the FJ brand. In response to your question about repairs...yes, we will continue to offer a repair service for Classics shoes. Contact our customer service department (1-800-224-8501) for more information. I hope this helps.

    Regards,

    Chris

  • So what is this "new flagship product?"

    The Classics are amazing, if you expect me to replace mine with something from your existing list on the website, you are very sadly mistaken! If there's something else coming, please let us know so you can temper our disappointment......

    I'm not adverse to progress, but this strikes me as a very negative move for FJ.

  • Mr. Connor,

    Has FJ explored a contract manufacturing relationship with other companies (i.e. Allen Edmonds) that manufacture high quality shoes of similar construction?  Such a relationship would relieve FJ of the overhead associated with maintaining the MA facility, while at the same time satisfying the loyal customer base of the Classics line.