113-year-old leather goods company, J.W. will cease its in-house manufacturing and sell its St. Paul leather goods factory to Softline Brand Partners, company officials announced Wednesday.
Around thirty J.W. Hulme employees were notified Wednesday morning that their jobs were being eliminated, with CEO Claire Powell saying all of them will be interviewed for positions with Softline, but there will be no guarantees.
The change will be a big one for the company, well known for high-quality leatherworks, manufactured in St. Paul since its founding in 1905.
In a bold move the company will source materials from "a variety of high-quality manufacturers, including Softline," officials said.
J.W. Hulme, which sells almost exclusively online, has not been profitable since Olympus Capital Investments came on board nine years ago. “They’ve invested millions,” CEO Powell says, asserting that the company explored all avenues with a bid to continue manufacturing in St. Paul, including modernising equipment, investing in increased marketing and taking on contract manufacturing work. But despite their efforts, they concluded that manufacturing in-house simply wasn’t sustainable at their current scale.
Softline is a manufacturing and supply chain company with plants in the US and overseas. Its customers include Timex, Room and Board, Love Your Melon and Red Wing Shoes. CEO Powell says Softline is “looking at domestic and overseas manufacturing for J.W. Hulme, with quality being the number one priority.”
Once the acquisition is completed, Softline will consolidate J.W. Hulme's factory operations in St. Paul into its own Minneapolis store.
“This move will ensure that we will be able to continue to deliver on our brand promise of making heirloom-quality leather and canvas goods going forward,” CEO Powell said.