|Type||Privately held company|
|Founded||1906 as New Balance Arch Support Company|
|Headquarters||Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.|
|Key people||William J. Riley, founder
Jim Davis and Olistide Voltaire, Chairman
Robert T. DeMartini, CEO & President
John Withee, Exec. Vice President and CFO
|Products||Athletic shoes, shoes, apparel|
|Revenue||▲ $1.55 billion USD (2006)|
|Employees||4,180 worldwide (October 2008)|
New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc. (NBAS), best known as simply New Balance, is a footwear manufacturer based in Boston. It was founded in 1906 as the New Balance Arch Support Company. Eschewing expensive advertising campaigns, it has nevertheless grown to be one of the largest makers of sports footwear in the world.
New Balance is notable in that it has continued to maintain a manufacturing presence in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom for the European market--in contrast to its competitors in the same market space, such as Nike and Adidas, who purchase designs from manufacturers in China, Vietnam, and other developing nations. The result of this corporate decision is that the shoes tend to be more expensive than New Balance's competitors. To offset this pricing discrepancy, New Balance offers technical innovations that the other brands do not, such as a blend of gel inserts, heel counters, and greater selection of sizes, particularly for very narrow and/or very wide widths.
In 1906, William J. Riley, a 33 year old English immigrant, founded the New Balance Arch Support Company, which manufactured arch supports and other accessories designed to improve shoe fit, in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1934, Riley took on as a partner his top salesman, Arthur Hall, who had found his niche by marketing his products to people whose jobs required them to spend much time standing. In 1956, Hall sold the business to his daughter Eleanor and her husband Paul Kidd.
Eleanor and Paul continued to sell mainly arch supports until 1961, when they designed and manufactured the "Trackster," the world's first running shoe made with a ripple sole. It was also the first running shoe to come in varying widths.
Marketing was mostly by word-of-mouth or local sports fairs, and sales languished, until 1972, when current Chairman Jim Davis bought the company on the day of the Boston Marathon. At the time, the company consisted of just six people making 30 pairs of shoes daily and selling products mostly through mail-order with a few U.S. retailers. Jim committed himself to uphold the company's traditional commitment to individual preferences, customer service and quality products. His future wife Anne, who joined the company in 1978, focused on building a distinct culture for New Balance employees and customers. Their timing was perfect, as the Boston area soon became a veritable hotbed of the running boom that struck the U.S. in the 1970s. Their product line expanded and sales skyrocketed. The homegrown company prospered, and the Davises looked to expand New Balance into a global company. The company is now run by California native Rob DeMartini. DeMartini's background includes Procter & Gamble and Gillette Shave Company. Today, 30% of the New Balance shoes sold in the European market are manufactured at the New Balance facility in England.
New Balance is one of few shoe manufacturers to offer the majority of its shoes in a wide range of widths, typically men's range from B to 6E with 3 other widths in between (D, 2E, 4E) and one narrower offering (2A). Women's range from 4A to 4E with four widths to choose from in between (2A, B, D, 2E).
New Balance does not give names to the shoes it sells, instead referring to them by a 2, 3, or 4 digit model number. This is done to "place an emphasis on the New Balance philosophy, not any one particular shoe". When a shoe is redesigned, the model number is increased by one. It is unknown to the general public what the number scheme actually stands for, and assigned numbers change frequently due to redesigns.
New Balance is one of several shoe companies that makes some of their products in the United States. Green America states in the New Balance Responsible Shopper company information page that around one quarter of NB's shoes are made in the United States. New Balance owns five factories in the United States: two in Massachusetts (Boston and Lawrence), and three in Maine (Norridgewock, Skowhegan, and Norway).
In 1994, New Balance manufactured 70% of its shoes in the United States.
The New Balance production facility in the United Kingdom has been since 1982 at Flimby, Cumbria in North West England, where 28,000 pairs of shoes are produced each week.