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The right fit: Munro & Co. not only survives, it expands.

"There will be survivors, and I plan to be one."

That's what Don Munro said of his Hot Springs-based company, Munro & Co., in a 1985 Arkansas Business interview.

The shoe manufacturing industry was depressed, and Munro makes shoes.

Seven years later, the 2,650-employee company has gross sales of more than $100 million.

"They said 15 years ago that we would never survive, and we have," says Mollie Munro, Don Munro's daughter and the public relations director of Munro & Co.

Munro & Co. has the rights to five brands -- Child Life, Jumping Jacks, Bernardo, Little Capezio and its own brand of Munro shoes.

But those brand names comprise only 25 percent of Munro & Co.'s business. The rest comes from-manufacturing private-label shoes. Munro & Co. makes shoes for major retailers such as the J.C. Penney Co. and Sears Roebuck & Co.

The company manufactures mostly women's and children's shoes, but Munro & Co. is attempting to diversify. For instance, it has successfully introduced a line of safety shoes.

One brand it has ceased servicing is the Nickelodeon line of children's shoes, which was developed out of the Nickelodeon television network.

Mollie Munro says the company does not do a lot of national advertising.

"We're not Nike," she says. "We don't want to be Nike."

Keeping Up

Still, Munro & Co. keeps up with changes in the industry.

The company even has teamed up with the state to provide education for Munro employees. There are classes offered in everything from painting to computer skills, from college-level English to mathematics.

Mollie Munro says the classes could educate as many as 15 percent of the company's employees to the point that they will no longer work in a shoe factory. But she says her father is committed to offering continuing education.

The classes have been tested at two of the company's plants. The program will be expanded this fall.

Munro & Co. has Arkansas plants at Clarendon, Clarksville, DeWitt, England, Hot Springs, Mount Ida and Wynne.

Munro & Co. most recently became the majority owner of Osage Footwear Inc. of Missouri, which created the Jumping Jacks line.

Mollie Munro says Munro & Co. is hoping to increase its sales of brand name shoes to better establish consumer identity.

Competition from firms with plants in other countries hasn't caused Munro & Co. to go out of business as many expected. Instead, it has kept company officials looking forward and constantly working to improve.
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Title Annotation:Top Fifty Profile
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jul 20, 1992
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