Blundstone Pty Ltd. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Blundstone Pty Ltd.

88 Gormanston Road
P.O. Box 316
Moonah, Tasmania 7009

Company Perspectives:

Our stated values are: Respecting the dignity of our people; Active l egal compliance; Responsible community membership; Outstanding produc t quality; Outstanding customer service; Non-discriminatory employmen t; Safe and healthy workplaces; Active industry membership.

History of Blundstone Pty Ltd.

Blundstone Pty Ltd. is Australia's leading footwear manufacturer. Ori ginally synonymous with its durable and comfortable boots for the far m and factory, the company developed a sense of style that made its f ootwear sought after in fashion centers around the world. Its distinc tive elastic-sided boots became a global hit in the 1990s. The compan y exports to more than 20 countries. It also owns New Zealand's John Bull brand. The company is one of Tasmania's leading employers; along with the associated Cuthbertson Brothers Tanners, it has been a part of the island's economy since the late 19th century. Blundstone has renewed its commitment to the area by investing millions of Aussie do llars in equipment and training to keep its products competitive with foreign imports.

Tasmanian Origins

Blundstone has been in business since 1870, when British émigr é John Blundstone began producing footwear in south Hobart on the island of Tasmania. The original address was 71 Liverpool Street. By 1892 Blundstone had moved to a new facility and was working with his son. The company became John Blundstone and Son Ltd. in 1902. The firm soon built a new two-story building on Campbell Street.

The brothers Frank and William Cane acquired the footwear business in 1921. It was sold to the Cuthbertson family, who would own it for th e rest of the century, in 1932. The Cutherbertsons also owned a tanne ry.

Brothers James and Thomas Cuthbertson had come to the area in 1853. T hey originally had sailed for Melbourne, but remained where they land ed in Hobart after a sickening voyage had them vowing never to go on the seas again. James Cuthbertson established a business making and i mporting shoes.

The company had gotten a big boost in 1914 when it began supplying th e army. World War II also produced great demand for boots. After the war, Blundstone produced a line of "Mountain Masters" boots for farme rs to wear as they tramped about the countryside. These were disconti nued in the 1970s but the concept was revived and updated in 2002.

A variety of different boots was developed, including those with chem ical resistant soles, waterproof boots, and those with wooden soles. Blundstone's specialty was work and safety footwear; the company pion eered steel-toed safety shoes. Dress and uniform shoes also were made . Along the way, production methods were updated to employ the latest technologies. Stitched and cemented soles were replaced by direct-vu lcanized rubber soles in the 1950s, which gave way to thermoplastic s oles a decade later, noted Manufacturer's Monthly.

The company began exporting in 1969, beginning with Papua New Guinea. The company got a new CEO in 1973, Tony Stacey, who would hold the j ob for about 30 years.

In 1993, Blundstone opened a small manufacturing and distribution fac ility in New Zealand to produce gumboots for the local market. The co mpany had begun making gumboots, which were waterproof, injection-mol ded footwear, four years earlier.

A Global Hit in the 1990s

Blundstone was making about 500,000 boots a year in the early 1990s. Blundstone's elastic-sided 500s began turning up in London boutiques, following a trend for heavy footwear set by punk icon Doc Martens bo ots. They also were becoming popular among fashion-conscious young Au ssie women. Their durability was a selling point in the global recess ion.

Blundstone took bold strides with fashion in the 1990s. New materials , such as blue suede and white leather, were tried. Although these di d not prove to be enduring successes, they created a buzz and establi shed Blundstone's work boots as chic, CEO Tom Stacey told Footwear News.

The company trod into new environs in 1992 by inviting Australian art ists to "Do Something With a Blundstone" for a touring exhibition. Th ree years later, it began sponsoring a contest for contemporary art a t the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.

In 1997 the company began an AUD 5.5 million program to upgrade its b uildings, manufacturing equipment, and information technology. Blunds tone opened a new distribution channel, the Internet, selling boots o n its web site. The new technology helped make the company less isola ted from the rest of the world. A training center was opened next to the main Blundstone plant. Cuthbertson Brothers Tanners also underwen t an upgrade, spending AUD 2 million to install new technology.

A line of children's shoes called Blunnies (the brand's traditional n ickname) was unveiled in time for the Christmas 1999 season. Children 's author Alison Lester was recruited to design merchandising materia ls. Based on the No. 500, the tiny boots were an instant sensation ar ound the world. A company official told Footwear News that the key to brand extensions such as this was authenticity. "It's not a c ontrived product," said marketing manager Barry Smith. "It's not the name of a tractor put on a boot made in a factory in China." Blunnies were made, with pride, "down under."

Blundstone was making 80 different types of boots. The company had st arted rolling out other new products, such as sandals, hiking boots, and women's safety shoes. Blundstone-branded socks and belts were als o available.

Blundstone ended the 1990s with 340 employees and annual revenues of AUD 50 million to AUD 75 million. Half of this came from safety and w ork sales, according to Footwear News, and 35 percent from far ming footwear. A total of 15 percent was exported to 22 countries. Mo re than half of its exports went to retail fashion stores, where they sold for up to $125 (AUD 200)--more than twice the price down un der (AUD 75 on average). By this time, the boots had caught on in the United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Italy.

The Tap Dogs, an Australian tap dancing troop that was touring the wo rld, wore Blundstones in their energetic routines. A herd of celebrit ies was hoofing them around Hollywood, and they were also a favorite of humble backpackers.

Acquiring John Bull in 2000

Blundstone's New Zealand subsidiary acquired John Bull Footwear in Ju ne 2000. John Bull had a factory in Auckland that employed more than 100 people. The company had been formed in 1934 to produce footwear f or the rural market. In 1981 it was acquired by OPSM Protector; it th en became the leading industrial footwear company in New Zealand.

The New Zealand gumboot operation was moved to Victoria, a suburb of Melbourne, Australia, in 2001, when the operation employed about 30 p eople. The Auckland factory continued to make John Bull boots.

With more women taking up industrial jobs, it seemed natural for Blun dstone's designers to develop a line of boots called "Women's Work." Tailored to fit women's feet, these boots were marketed in packaging featuring designs commissioned from six female Aboriginal artists. Th ey hit the Australian market in August 2000. The design effort was le d by a woman, Sharon Teuma. Teuma had previously worked in Australia with U.S. brands Colorado and Columbia, and had led Blundstone's chil dren's shoe development. The step into ladies' footwear was more than just politically correct, an official told Melbourne's Herald Sun ; women bought several times as many shoes as men. The first fema le-specific product was a multipurpose outdoor shoe.

Blundstone continued to produce new designs for both men and women. T hese included the unisex Mountain Master line of hiking boots (these were bundled with a special travel booklet produced by publisher Lone ly Planet).

Blundstone struggled with a world leather shortage in 2001 brought on by the hoof-and-mouth crisis in Europe. Blundstone was unique among Australian footwear manufacturers in being associated with its own ta nnery. Most sourced their uppers pre-made from Asia.

Competition from cheap imports hurt sales in 2003, prompting manageme nt to consider moving production offshore. On the plus side, a severe drought had farmers sending more cattle to slaughter, increasing the Blundstone's stockpile of leather.

Blundstone was introducing new, more stylish lines into the John Bull collection. The Matador and the Warrior both had safety features as well as looks. Another new product for its namesake brand was the Blu ndstone Action Sandal.

In spite of the high cost of running a business in Tasmania, and pres sure from low-cost foreign imports, Blundstone renewed its commitment to its home with an AUD 2 million investment in new machinery in 200 4. A new automated leather cutting machine and extra molding machine were intended to make the operation more efficient, CEO Steve Gunn to ld The Mercury.

At the time of its 135th anniversary in 2005, the company's 550 emplo yees were producing 1.5 million pairs of footwear a year at three sit es, including the original Cuthbertson tannery in Tasmania. Training was a priority at the company to keep morale and quality high and tur nover low.

Blundstone's gumboot operation was relocated from Laverton, near Melb ourne, to Hobart, Tasmania in the fall of 2005. The Tasmania governme nt pitched in $96,000 to help move a molding machine. Steve Gunn, a former civil servant and the company's CEO since 2001, said that t he ample availability of skilled workers in Tasmania was one factor i n relocating the operation.

Principal Subsidiaries: Blundstone New Zealand Ltd.

Principal Divisions: Blundstone Australia; Blundstone USA; Joh n Bull Footwear.

Principal Competitors: AirWair International Ltd.; R.M. Willia ms Pty. Ltd.; Redback Boot Company Pty. Ltd.


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