P.W. Minor is doing what businesses do periodically, said owner Pete Zeliff this morning -- reorganizing.
While the company's reputation was built on its orthopedic shoe line, rebuilding the brand and the business in that market is proving difficult, Zeliff said. Meanwhile, the "white label" shoe business is growing and shows promise for more growth.
"White label" means making shoes on the specifications and under the brands of other shoe companies.
Last week, the company laid off eight employees and more cuts are possible, Zeliff said, based on how things go in the coming months.
"We're cutting costs," Zeliff said. "Sales are down. Revenue is down. I can only keep writing checks out of my own pocket for so long. It's ridiculous to keep doing it."
Zeliff said many of P.W. Minor's former customers dropped the shoe line during the company's previous ownership and winning them back has proven tough. Many of those customers have gotten used to buying shoes made in China and seem willing to accept buying a new pair of shoes twice a year instead one pair every two years of a better quality shoe.
And those orders come in two and three shoes at a time, which make them more expensive to produce.
With "white label" contracts, P.W. Minor is able to produce larger runs of particular shoes at higher margins.
It can take 18 months, though, to land a new white label contract. That's how long it took P.W. Minor to go from introduction through samples to production for K-Swiss.
Zeliff said there are more white label deals coming. There's one company P.W. Minor has been working with for 20 months which will likely place an order soon. Another potential contract could mean increasing production by 40,000 to 50,000 pairs of shoes a year.
Before the recent layoffs, the factory was producing 180 pairs of shoes a day, sometimes 200 pairs. Since the layoffs, the factory has hit a production target of 200 pairs a day consistently.
"I think it opened some people's eyes," Zeliff said. "I've told them there will probably be more layoffs in the near future. Now all the production picks up. Nobody wants to be the guys getting laid off."
The 150-year-old company was about to close in 2014 when Zeliff and then partner Andrew Young stepped in saved it. Zeliff has been focused on revamping the business since, bringing in top marketers and designers and investing in new equipment.
In 2015, the company ended all production in China, bringing those jobs back to Batavia, with assistance from New York.
The other part of the P.W. Minor showing promise is the Abram Boots line and Batavia Boot & Shoe Company collection, introduced last fall. Both brands are showing sales growth, especially the boots, he said.
"I think we're on a good path," Zeliff said. "Has there been some pain? Yeah, but I've been sticking 200 grand into the business each month to keep it going and I don't know anybody else in this town who would keep on doing that."