New Balance Athletic Shoes, Inc. is an American footwear company based in Boston, Massachusetts. It began existence as New Balance Arch Support Company and exclusively sold arch supports and other shoe accessories. In the 1970’s New Balance expanded to include specialized shoe design. Today New Balance Athletic Shoes, Inc. includes the brands Dunham, PF Flyers, Aravon, Warrior and Brine.
New Balance Arch Support Company got its start in 1906 when William J. Riley, a 33 year old English immigrant to the States, set up shop in Boston, MA. The original company only sold accessories designed to make people’s shoes fit better. Arthur Hall joined the company in 1934. He is largely responsible for designing New Balance’s marketing strategy at that time, which was to advertise New Balance products to people whose jobs required them to spend long hours standing. According to the New Balance website, the company’s primary customers at that time were police officers and waiters who were desperate for orthopedic relief.
Although Riley’s daughter and son-in-law designed the first New Balance tennis shoe in 1961 (it was called the “Trackster”), New Balance did not enjoy success in the arena until the company switched hands to Jim Davis. The handover was well timed. The US was just about to launch into the jogging craze of the 1970s, and Boston was at the epicenter of the storm. In fact, Davis purchased New Balance on the day of the Boston Marathon in 1972.
Before Davis, New Balance consisted of six employees who made roughly 30 pairs of shoes a day. These were specialty shoes designed for customers with specific needs. Davis was able to expand the company while maintaining New Balance’s legacy of first rate service for its customers.
New Balance has experienced a lot of changes in the last few decades. The head of its operations is no longer a Bostonian but a Californian. New Balance factories were opened in England (to accommodate a growing European market) and later in China. But there are a few principles that New Balance tries to keep consistent. First, New Balance still maintains five factories in the United States – a rarity in these days of globalization and cheap labor overseas. Also, New Balance has a strict “Endorsed by No One ” policy that refuses to cater to the bankbooks of celebrity athletes. The company maintains that quality shoes do not need a celebrity spokesperson. In many ways, this is a consumer-friendly policy. After all, 5 dollars of every Nike shoe you buy goes straight into the pocket of Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.