WED AM News: Weyco Group looking to expand more into outdoor footwear, continue acquisitions; State sets new record for apprenticeships

— After a strong post-pandemic recovery, Glendale-based Weyco Group is looking to expand further into the outdoor shoe market and continue growing through acquisitions. 

That was the message CEO Tom Florsheim delivered yesterday to members of the Milwaukee Rotary Club. Speaking at the group’s latest luncheon meeting, he said the footwear retailer aims to evolve its various brand offerings to follow industry trends while maintaining its hold on the dress shoe market. 

“We really saw this in ‘21 and ‘22, where nobody really wanted to be in the dress shoe business because everything was really casual,” he said. “We stayed in the dress shoe business, at least with a percentage of our styles, because it was our heritage … so there’s much less competition, which gives us more room to grow.” 

Weyco Group designs, markets and sells a variety of shoes under brand names including Florsheim, Nunn Bush, Stacy Adams, BOGS, Rafters and Umi. It’s largely a wholesale business, with 85 percent of sales in the wholesale market and the other 15 percent in direct retail and e-commerce. The company’s design center is located at its Glendale headquarters, but it contracts with manufacturers in a number of overseas markets. 

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, demand for dress shoes all but disappeared as formal events and weddings were called off, Florsheim explained. But other brands like BOGS — which offers boots and hiking shoes — performed better as customers looked to the outdoors for recreation. 

Once the vaccines started becoming available in the following year, social events began to resume and the dress shoe business boomed once again, Florsheim said. But even as the company saw “incredible demand” for its more formal offerings, supply chain issues led to delivery delays and higher costs. 

While the time it took to ship shoes from China to the company’s U.S. distribution system tripled to about three months, the price to import each pair quadrupled to nearly $4, according to Florsheim. As a result of these and other trends, the company’s wholesale and retail prices have both risen by about 15 percent, he said. 

Still, the challenges of 2021 were followed by “the year of the wedding” in 2022, as numerous marriage ceremonies postponed for much of the pandemic were finally able to be held. 

“If I have these numbers right, there were more weddings last year than in any year since 1984 … the demand continued to be very, very strong last year, and supply chain eased off, so we were actually able to get the shoes in to fill the demand — which was wonderful,” he said. 

Watch a video of his remarks here: 

— Wisconsin set a new record for total apprenticeship numbers last year with 15,937 participants, state officials announced. 

A release from Gov. Tony Evers’ office attributes that record-high total to “strong growth” in traditional sectors such as construction and manufacturing, as well as other growing fields like health care and information technology. 

The previous record of 15,757 registered apprentices was set in 2001, the release shows. 

The Department of Workforce Development and employer partners last year added seven new registered apprenticeship pathways: diesel technician, supply chain specialist, yacht service technician, lab animal care technician, medical lab technician, caregiver and human resources specialist. The agency plans to add six new pathways this year across health care, transportation and service industries, according to the release. 

DWD Secretary Amy Pechacek says the state now offers at least 183 registered apprenticeship pathways and 75 youth apprenticeship options. 

“These record-breaking numbers exemplify the program’s success in connecting employers to skilled workers and job seekers to family-sustaining careers,” she said in yesterday’s release. 

See more:

— Banks in the state were in a strong financial position to end last year, according to the Wisconsin Bankers Association. 

In the group’s report on the latest federal banking figures, WBA President and CEO Rose Oswald Poels notes inflation continues to increase expenses for households and companies alike. Still, she said “the overall picture shows that more borrowers are keeping current on their loans and consumers are putting money into savings at their bank.” 

Residential loans were 13.71 percent higher over the year, the WBA report shows. 

And commercial lending increased 11.09 percent over the year, but began to slow near the end of 2022 as recession concerns kept businesses from borrowing more, WBA notes. 

Meanwhile, farm loans fell 20 percent over the quarter, but were 8.12 percent higher over the year, according to the release. 

“While farmland values remain strong, sharp interest rate increases have resulted in the softening of some farm loan demand,” WBA said. “An increase in farm income toward the end of 2022 also led to an increase in loan repayments.”

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— Gov. Tony Evers has proposed a $3.8 billion capital budget that would finance half of the projects with cash instead of borrowing.

Evers’ office estimated the move — using a portion of the state’s projected $7.1 billion surplus at the end of this fiscal year June 30 — would save $1 billion in debt payments over the 20 years that building projects are normally financed using bonds.

“Our historic surplus means we have historic opportunity and responsibility — to invest in key projects that have long been neglected while still staying well within our means, keeping borrowing low, and saving taxpayers money in the long run, and that’s exactly what our Capital Budget does,” Evers said.

Two years ago, Evers proposed a nearly $2.4 billion capital budget. Republican lawmakers pared that back to $1.5 billion.

Joint Finance Senate Co-chair Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, said the guv’s proposal will “have to go through the normal process,” while Assembly Co-chair Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, said changes are coming.

“The Governor’s Capital Budget recommendation is more of the same as we saw in his budget recommendation — massive spending and unrealistic growth,” Born said. “The Legislature’s Capital Budget will make important investments in our state’s infrastructure and ensure we’re in a strong position for the future.”

Evers’ new plan includes: $2.9 billion in cash, gifts and federal money; $538.3 in new bonding; and $328.1 in existing bonding.

The bulk of that is $1.8 billion for projects on UW System campuses. The biggest proposed project is $347.4 million to demolish the computer-aided engineering facility and build a replacement on the Madison campus. Evers also wants to put $441.5 million into various maintenance and renovation projects, from overhauling instructional space to replacing utilities.

— Joint Finance Committee Co-chair Rep. Mark Born at a luncheon said Republicans likely won’t include in their budget Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to allow local governments to implement their own sales tax increases.

Evers has proposed dedicating 20 percent of future state sales tax collections to boost shared revenue by more than $576 million while also allowing local governments to levy a higher sales tax of their own.

Born spoke at yesterday’s luncheon alongside fellow co-chair Sen. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green. The two said Republicans would build the budget off of base levels. The co-chairs said there are opportunities for agreement with the governor, such as on shared revenue to help fund local governments. Born said that doesn’t mean they support what the governor is proposing, but they agree it’s important to make progress on shared revenue.

Born also ripped Gov. Tony Evers for not discussing his proposal to provide $290 million in his budget for the Milwaukee Brewers stadium with Republicans before announcing it.

See more luncheon coverage at 

<br><b><i>Top headlines from the Health Care Report … </b></i> 

— State officials have announced $1 million in grants to expand mental health and substance abuse services around Wisconsin.  

And the Department of Health Services is now taking applications for $15 million in grants for home- and community-based service organizations in Wisconsin. 

<i>For more of the most relevant news on COVID-19, reports on groundbreaking health research in Wisconsin, links to top stories and more, sign up today for the free daily Health Care Report from and</i>

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# Republican lawmakers propose limiting UW tuition increases

# Evers’ capital budget proposes $1.8 billion for UW facilities

# Wisconsin hits record-breaking apprenticeship numbers



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<i>See these and other press releases: </i>

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