It’s been decades since the U.S. shoe industry sent most of its manufacturing work abroad. Missouri, once a major center for footwear production, has seen that part of its economy mostly disappear. But a handful of shoe companies still call the St. Louis region home.
One of them is Elan Polo International, a $300 million company whose corporate headquarters is located in Overland, where about 100 people design shoes and oversee global production and distribution. An importer since its inception in 1976, the St. Louis County company’s biggest customers include Walmart and Target.
But now, Elan Polo has plans to make flip flops, a garden clog and a soccer sandal that would instead bear a “Made in the U.S.A.” label. Priced from $7 to $12 a pair, the shoes are expected to begin hitting Walmart stores next fall and into spring 2015. The decision came after Walmart began challenging its suppliers to find a way to bring more production stateside. Walmart’s initiative set the folks at Elan Polo thinking: Was there a way to make some kind of shoe in the U.S. that could still be competitively priced with imports?