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Company Running to Keep Up With Orders For Running Shoes

August 14, 1992

BANGOR, Maine (AP) _ A little-known competitor in the running shoe industry has more than doubled its work force of 100 as it tries to keep up with orders for a shoe rated as the ″best buy″ by Consumer Reports.

The magazine gave the Saucony Jazz 3000, made by Hyde Athletic Industries, its most favorable rating in May based on the shoe’s performance and cost - about half the price of some of the other models tested. The shoe costs about $68.

″Since that article, our sales have gone nuts,″ said Douglas Later, manager of the factory on Farm Road. ″We’re buying equipment and hiring people like crazy.″

Because of the flurry of orders, the plant added a second shift and hired about 150 people to increase the work force to 250, Later said. Another 50 or 60 jobs will be added before the expansion is complete, he said.

He said Hyde, based in Peabody, Mass., plans to increase output to 8,000 pairs of shoes daily, up from the 2,400 pairs a day the Bangor plant had produced in recent years.

Saucony has about 3 percent of the competitive $522 million market for running shoes, putting it in the company of Adidas, Etonic, Asics and New Balance.

Later said his company isn’t afraid to go after the industry giants - Nike and Reebok.

Hyde, with overall sales of about $62.2 million, is committed to making running shoes for serious athletes who are more concerned about performance and less swayed by showy advertising, he said.

″Nike and Reebok are flashy; they’re marketing companies. We’re in the shoe business, not show business,″ Later said.

He said the company is increasing its marketing and advertising budgets to capitalize on the Consumer Reports rating and he didn’t think the sales gains would prove temporary.

″One of the things our customers tell us is that once you run in a pair of Saucony shoes you become very loyal to that brand,″ he maintained.

Hyde is a rare success story in a declining Maine industry ravaged by recession and a shift toward overseas production. The company is having to train new workers because there aren’t enough experienced shoemakers in the area.

Later said Saucony and New Balance, which has plants in Skowhegan and Norridgewock, are the only leading running shoes brands that maintain domestic production.

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