Washington Shoe Company in Kent to expand | Business

While most of us are just beginning to soak up the summer sun, the Kent-based Washington Shoe Company is already looking forward to the fall rain. Celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, the company is gearing up for another successful rain boot season with well-loved licensed characters and other new products, while expanding its staff and physical footprint, both at home and overseas, according to a June 7 company media release.

While most of us are just beginning to soak up the summer sun, the Kent-based Washington Shoe Company is already looking forward to the fall rain.

Celebrating its 120th anniversary this year, the company is gearing up for another successful rain boot season with well-loved licensed characters and other new products, while expanding its staff and physical footprint, both at home and overseas, according to a June 7 company media release.

Set to expand into a second warehouse at its Kent headquarters by the end of this year to meet product demand, the company recently expanded its sales team and art department.

Washington Shoe appointed Andy Aaron as director of sales and business development. With three decades of sales growth and development experience in the footwear industry, more than half of it launching new brands and labels for Skechers, Aaron was brought on board “to grow our Chooka line to the next level and to assist in the management of our sales team,” said company president Rob Moehring.

Washington Shoe has also hired former buyer and store manager Annie Gutierrez as account executive and promoted Jessica Shaw from customer service representative to account executive, to develop and manage a new college program that will launch this fall.

In the art department, Amy Watanube has proven to be a fresh set of eyes for Washington Shoe brands, in particular Chooka, and Moehring is excited about “the feminine and chic perspective” that Watanube brings to the team and, specifically, the Chooka brand.

With the new hires has come a complete revamp of the headquarters, flip-flopping the offices of the art department and sales team, which will allow both the ideal space and layout to drive sales and creative expression to the next level.

This year the company is focused on expanding and better defining Chooka in the marketplace and the industry.  Of his vision for 2011-12, Moehring said, “Rain boots are our bread and butter, and this year is about bringing Chooka full circle and getting the whole package just right.”

Including Chooka, Washington Shoe has six brands, all of which continue to penetrate the shoe marketplace. In particular, Western Chief Kids continues to remain a leader in the children’s rain gear market.

Last year, the company came out with a new raincoat construction, attaching a cape to its licensed raincoats for Batman and Superman. This year it plans to expand on that concept with non-licensed product, while adding to its licensing program with the launch of Scooby-Doo boots for girls and boys in fall 2011. Exclusive to Nordstrom will be the debut of Washington Shoe’s own patented lighted raincoat series.

In China, the company recently opened a sample production lab managed by an experienced sample development engineer, and acquired a well-known footwear design studio that will aid in the development and launch of a new fashion neoprene (synthetic rubber) collection for the Chooka brand in spring 2012. The collection will include low- to mid-high boots.

Moehring remains optimistic amid an ever-competitive business climate.

“In this industry, you have to stay ahead,” Moehring said. “It’s not enough to just keep up. Just when you think you have the next best thing, you have to start all over again.”

The company was founded in Seattle in 1891 to produce rugged outdoor boots designed to meet the harsh conditions of the Alaska Gold Rush, according to the company website www.westernchief.com.


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