Doctors, nurses and other health care professionals have long worn traditional blue scrubs during work shifts lasting as long as 12 hours.
In recent years, that visual monotony has been broken up by imaginative patterns, colors and styles – even designer ware.
Last week, Skechers USA Inc., known for its popular youth-oriented shoes, decided to get in on some of the health care action, signing a licensing agreement with Strategic Partners Inc., a maker of medical apparel for multiple labels.
“The line will represent the fashionable, fun and feminine side of caregivers,” said Wendell Mobley, a spokesman for Strategic Partners, based in Chatsworth. “It will provide people who often are in scrubs for up to 12 hours per shift the opportunity to allow their style sense into their jobs.”
Skechers, based in Manhattan Beach, already sells some of its sturdier shoes and slip-on footwear to hospital and health care workers through third-party distributors.
The company did not respond to requests for interviews, but President Michael Greenberg, said in a statement that the new medical apparel line “perfectly complements our workplace footwear offerings and will be a fantastic extension to the Skechers brand and lifestyle within medical environments.”
The medical apparel business has gotten surprisingly crowded in recent years, with brands as diverse as Baby Phat, Disney and the National Football League licensing their names to Strategic Partners. (Health care is one of the few domestic industries with certain long-term growth prospects.)
Skechers’ line will include ready-to-wear scrubs, pants, jackets and T-shirts. A press release describes it as a “younger, more flattering fit than traditional medical apparel … through innovative silhouettes, prints and fabrications.”
Strategic Partners will design and distribute the line, called Sketchers Medical Apparel, through independent uniform retail stores and catalogs beginning in January. The line will be priced from about $20 to $24, a bit more costly than traditional medical apparel.
Sam Poser, an analyst who follows the shoe company for Sterne Agee, based in Birmingham, Ala., described the Skechers move as positive, but not material.
“What they’re hoping is that more people become aware of Skechers because of it and then buy more of their regular shoes,” he said. “They’re not making anything. They’re just putting their name on something and getting money out of it. Skechers is moving into a new area to become a stronger company, but it’s just free money for Skechers.”
Poser described the shoe company as “very healthy” with a share price that has rebounded steadily after plummeting in February amid the nationwide slump in retail sales. Shares closed at $23.48 on Nov. 12, close to the 52-week high of $25.30 achieved in October. In March, shares sold for as little as $5.27.
For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, the company reported net operating income of $32.4 million, up from $24.7 million in the third quarter of 2008. Sales were up less than 1 percent to $405 million.
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