CONCORD, Mass.—After decades of working together, outsole and shoe company Vibram USA and its manufacturing and distribution channel Quabaug Corp. are now a single entity.
For more than 50 years, Quabaug had served as the manufacturer and distributor of Vibram's rubber soling products. Vibram acquired Quabaug's soling assets on June 1 in an effort to focus the combined company on product development and on the research and development of innovative new products, said Vibram CEO Mike Gionfriddo. The newly formed company will be referred to as Quabaug Vibram Innovation, although the Vibram brand will continue to be marketed to customers.
“We have been in a period of working on new innovative procedures and products and to look at a more global view of our industry,” Gionfriddo said. “We're trying to develop new materials and new products that offer enhanced attributes and better performance characteristics, and this move allows us to be more successful with this plan.”
Financial details of the acquisition, which had been discussed informally for several years, were not made available by the privately held companies. There will be few, if any, changes in the work force, and the combined company's facilities in both Concord and North Brookfield, Mass., will be maintained. QVI management will consider modernizing its existing production facility.
The combined company employs about 750 worldwide and 300 in the U.S.
QVI also will invest in new and advanced manufacturing technologies and equipment. As a result, Vibram customers will benefit from the new product development process, laboratory validation, streamlined communications and heightened innovation, the company said.
For the last 50 years, Quabaug and Vibram collaborated to design and manufacture rubber compounds such as Megagrip, Idrogrip and XS Grip and products that serve the outdoor, athletic and industrial categories. It has a strong line of disc golf and pet products. Vibram said its Five Fingers brand of performance footwear has been well received by consumers.
Much of QVI's new investments may go toward improvements in the performance end of its sole category, Gionfriddo said. For example, one goal is to develop new or enhanced products for markets such as snowboarding, skateboarding and any activity or sport that requires better traction within soles, he said.
“That's the right area for us to take advantage of our expertise and a great opportunity for us to achieve some notable growth,” Gionfriddo said. “We are expanding our product line to include more options in performance activities for women and children. Traction performance in general is where we are concentrating with greater quality and innovation.”
The deal was in the works for several months. Prior to the acquisition, Vibram hired several rubber chemists, mechanical engineers, physicists and other experienced professionals to help move the theme of innovation forward within the company, Gionfriddo said.
There will be notable supply chain benefits to operating as QVI as well, he said, allowing the company to save on costs while increasing efficiencies.
“We see this agreement as setting us up for another successful 100-year run,” he added.