A Massachusetts footwear company has developed a line of boots under the Michelin brand name, claiming to be the first company to license the brand for a non-automotive product.
The line-which was scheduled to launch in May-includes five types of high-end, heavy-duty workplace boots for use in construction, warehousing, forestry and other industries.
The boots will be the first apparel product to carry the Michelin brand name, said Tom Costin, CEO and owner of Soletech Inc. His firm has exclusive rights to design, market and oversee manufacturing of Michelin footwear products in North America under Soletech's Michelin Footwear Technologies division.
The boots sport modified versions of Michelin patented tire tread patterns on their soles, he said.
The footwear also uses basic polymer formulations owned by Soletech but modified by Michelin for specific applications in much the same way it adjusts formulations for tires, said Rick Johnson, senior executive vice president of Soletech. The boots' formulations target slip resistance, abrasion resistance and other factors tire designers consider, he said.
Soletech developed the line in response to the decline of North American shoe manufacturing, Mr. Costin said. When he bought Soletech in 1979, the firm had been a producer of rubber soles for domestic shoemakers-its niche since its founding in 1946, Mr. Costin said. As its customers shifted manufacturing to the Far East during the 1980s and '90s, Soletech morphed into a sourcing company, managing the overseas production and importing of shoe components and finished shoes into North America.
By 2000, when Dexter Shoe Co., a large customer, closed its U.S. plant, Soletech decided it was time to launch its own line of branded footwear, Mr. Costin said.
The firm developed a line of extra-depth shoes under the Advance brand name aimed at people with foot problems, he said. Then, it turned its sights on a more mainstream set of products.
``Because of our background in rubber, we wanted to do something that would have a connection with what we had done with the heritage of Soletech,'' he said, ``So we looked at some of the tire companies.''
By 2001, Soletech heard that Michelin had a campaign trying to extend its brand recognition into new markets. The timing was perfect, Mr. Costin said.
The age range Soletech's boots are designed for also mirrors the demographic Michelin is hoping to woo with its brand extension campaign, he said. ``The whole idea behind it for Michelin is to attract a new customer and bring the median age of their average consumer down. Today, it's male, age 35-45, mid-to-high income.
``They want to bring it down to about 35 years of age, male and female, and perhaps across different income categories.''
The five lines of boots will cost between $100 and $165 a pair, Mr. Costin said.